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Are you meeting your wage obligations?

Monday, 10th November 2014, by Loran McDougall

In today's Workplace Bulletin:
  • Your wage obligations and the consequences of underpaying employees
  • How to identify, prevent and deal with bullying in your workplace
Dear Reader,

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recently cracked down on wage underpayments, with employers in Victoria reimbursing underpaid employees over $70,000 following FWO inquiries.
In these cases, Fair Work inspectors contacted the employers to advise them that they were obligated to reimburse the money they owed. Because all employees were reimbursed, no further action was required. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said this was “an example of [the FWO’s] fair and flexible response to employers who admit their errors, rectify any back-payments and put processes in place to ensure further compliance”.
That said, it is important to remember that underpaying an employee is a breach of the employment contract – and the consequences of this can include legal action.
Read on for more information about your minimum wage obligations and what could happen if you don’t meet them.
But just quickly...
New bullying laws and increased penalties reflect the government’s commitment to treating the issue of workplace bullying with the seriousness it deserves.
To help clarify your responsibilities when it comes to bullying, Portner Press has developed a brand-new 50-page eBook, The Bullying Guide – How to identify, prevent and deal with bullying in your workplace.
You can find out more about it here.
Until next time,
Jessica Oldfield
Loran McDougall
Editor
Workplace Bulletin
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Your wage obligations and the

consequences

of underpaying employees

by Charles Power
Editor-in-Chief, Employment Law Practical Handbook
As an Australian employer, you are required to pay wages if you are party to an employment contract (you are not obligated to pay wages to volunteers or independent contractors).
Agreed wage and minimum wage
An agreed wage is a rate stipulated in the employment contract. An agreed wage that is less than the minimum wage is a breach of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).
The statutory minimum wage applies to national system employers and employees, and is the minimum amount specified in either the FW Act or an industrial instrument operating under the FW Act, such as:
  • a modern award; or
  • an enterprise agreement.
If an employee is covered by both a modern award and an enterprise agreement, the modern award will not apply. However, the minimum wage specified in the enterprise agreement cannot be less than the minimum wage provided in the modern award.
If a national system employee is not covered by either of these instruments, they are subject to either:
  • the national minimum wage; or
  • the special national minimum wage, which applies to certain classifications of employees, such as junior employees, apprentices and employees with a disability.
You can find the national minimum wages for 2014 here.
The consequences of underpaying employees
If you pay an employee less than the agreed wage, you will breach the employment contract. The employee may then bring legal action against you, to have you pay:
  • the wages owing;
  • interest; and
  • legal costs.
If you underpay an employee against the statutory minimum wage, the employee, a union or a Fair Work inspector may bring legal action against you to recover the amount. If this happens, in addition to the wages you owe, you may also be required to pay:
  • interest;
  • a monetary penalty of up to $51,000 (if the employer is a company) or up to $10,200 (if the employer is an individual).
Regards,
Charles Power
Charles Power
Editor-in-Chief

Employment Law Practical Handbook




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