Industrial Relations Claims has negotiated $15,000 compensation for a young plumber’s labourer who was paid apprentice rates.
The young man waited until his three month probation period had finished before complaining to his bosses about his pay.
In response, they sacked him.
When 21 year-old *Sam started working for the plumber, his boss told him he was an apprentice.
However, he never filled out the paperwork required for a genuine apprenticeship.
The scam meant the plumber paid Sam an apprentice rate of $11.16 an hour, instead of paying him as a labourer at $19.00 an hour.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at IR Claims, says the difference in pay impacted Sam’s life.
“If you are going to train someone, then the government lets you do that at a heavily discounted rate, and in return, the worker gets a vocation,” he said.
“If the worker is working as a labourer however, then the worker must be paid as a labourer.”
After his three month probation period ended, Sam complained to his boss about the wage theft.
When he demanded to be back-paid, the company fired him.
General protections claim
Firstly, they challenged his dismissal using a general protections claim involving dismissal because an employer cannot sack someone for asking about their employment conditions.
Secondly, IR Claims filed a claim for the underpayment of wages.
Mr Heffernan said he made a request for records, which the plumber initially ignored.
“It wasn’t until we filed the claim in the Federal Court, that we finally got their attention,” he said.
IR Claims subsequently negotiated a compensation payout for Sam, totalling more than $15,000.
‘Swimming pool of sharks’
Young apprentices are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, according to Mr Heffernan.
“It’s both rampant and grubby,” he said.
“So many young people want to get their foot in the door and start a trade, but they don’t realise they’re jumping into a swimming pool full of sharks.
“Many don’t realise what’s involved in signing up as an apprentice – they should know that if they haven’t signed a heap of paperwork with a bunch of different bureaucrats, chances are, they’re not an apprentice, so they should be paid full labourer rates.”
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