Recalcitrant employer cops penalty as well as paying up

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Recalcitrant employer cops penalty as well as paying up

The Magistrates Court of Victoria has awarded the first penalties against an employer for breaches of the WorkChoices laws investigated by the Office of Workplace Services (OWS).

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The Magistrates Court of Victoria has awarded the first penalties against an employer for breaches of the WorkChoices laws investigated by the Office of Workplace Services (OWS).

The penalties followed failure by the employer to resolve the breaches voluntarily.

In October 2006 OWS initiated legal action against Snowline Management Pty Ltd, trading as the Snowline Hotel, based in Harrietville, north-east of Melbourne, alleging underpayment of wages by failing to pay the correct hourly rate.

On Wednesday Snowline agreed to pay the full claim of $3,375.61 plus interest of $76 by 10 January 2007.

Failed to voluntarily comply

Yesterday the Court considered an OWS submission for penalties against Snowline and ordered a penalty of $5,000 for the breaches.

OWS Director, Nicholas Wilson, says the decision to commence legal proceedings followed attempts to work with the employer to resolve the breaches voluntarily.

'We want employers and workers to be aware of their rights and obligations,' said Wilson. 'In this instance the employer chose not to voluntarily comply.

'As a result, not only have they had to pay the workers' full entitlements, but have also received a considerable fine.'

Wilful breaches

Wilson said that if in any investigation the OWS finds breaches that are 'repeated, wilful or of a serious nature', or if the employer does not rectify the breach voluntarily, the OWS may initiate litigation proceedings to ensure compliance and seek penalties.

'My message to employers is: trying to cheat your workers may end up costing you more that just doing the right thing,' he said. 'Businesses found breaching their obligations face a penalty of up to $33,000 per breach.

'In this case, not only has the employer been required to rectify the underpayment of wages, but has received a penalty in excess of the original costs.'

Employers and employees who would like more information on their rights and obligations can contact the WorkChoices Infoline on 1300 363 264.

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