A Sydney-based labour-hire company has avoided court action for deliberate wage theft, after entering into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work watchdog.
Under the terms of the agreement, the company has agreed to back pay a Chinese student who was underpaid $12,933 between July 2017 and April last year.
Cherries Farm Employment Agency Pty Ltd, based in Burwood, and its director Ms Hsin-Jung Hsieh, paid the student a cash-in-hand rate of $15 per hour.
She was entitled to be paid $23.51 an hour, and up to $35.27 on Saturdays and up to $47.02 for overtime.
Cherries Farm was also found to have created false and misleading records to disguise the illegal cash payments.
The worker, aged in her late 20s, was in Australia on a student visa, and was employed by Cherries Farm to pack and sort vegetables.
The Enforceable Undertaking
Under the terms of the Enforceable Undertaking, Cherries Farm has committed to changing its business practices to ensure it complies with workplace laws in the future.
It will also engage independent auditors to check if any other employees across all businesses it supplies labour to have not been receiving their correct entitlements.
These audits will take place in 2019 and 2020.
In addition to back-paying the worker, it will also issue her an apology on its social media channels.
Cherries Farm will also make a contrition payment of $5,000 to the Commonwealth Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Enforceable Undertakings send wrong message
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, has long been critical of the Enforceable Undertakings.
“They send the wrong message to dodgy bosses,” he said.
“Instead of being taken to court for deliberately ripping off their workers, employers know that the regulator will almost certainly offer one of these Enforceable Undertakings – and all they have to do is pay back what they owe, and make a token donation to a charity or to the Commonwealth Revenue Fund, and they get off Scot-free.
“Employers who are found to be deliberately ripping off their workers should be hauled before the courts to face the full force of the law.”