Accessorial liability in the spotlight, warns ICB

Accessorial liability in the spotlight, warns ICB

Bookkeepers cannot afford to “turn a blind eye” to contraventions of workplace law and will be held accessorially liable by the Fair Work Ombudsman, says one bookkeeping body.

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers technical support manager Chris McComb highlighted the decision in the EZY Accounting 123 court case earlier this year that found the accounting firm liable for an employer’s underpayments because it failed to address the award obligations despite knowing of it, as an example of the Ombudsman crackdown.

Under one point of Section 550 of the Fair Work Act, “a person is involved in a contravention if they: have been in any way, by act or omission, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in or party to the contravention.”

Ms McComb said bookkeepers should instead seek advice from experts when unsure of award rates and workplace laws.

“What we're saying is if you're unsure, ask questions, don't turn a blind eye, you need to ask questions,” said Ms McComb.

“In the case of EZY Accounting 123, those accountants who turned a blind eye to the ongoing situation, the Fair Work Ombudsman said 'that is not good enough, you actually knew about this and you turned a blind eye'.

"Alert your clients to possible breaches. We understand that that's actually a difficult thing but because you're there, don't assume your client will go 'oh that was all my fault',” she added.

“If the Fair Work Ombudsman came in, they'll go, ‘she did the bookkeeping’, so we're just trying to keep you safe and keep you well informed about what's going on in the industry.“

Speaking at ATSA 17, HR software provider Workforce Guardian chief executive Sean Wilson said bookkeepers should flag any concerns with their client immediately and place the decision making onus back on them.

“The first thing would be straightaway putting it back on the employer or back to your boss saying, ‘I've found some potential issues, what do you want me to do about them, I can help you fix them’”, said Mr Wilson.

“Ultimately, you're putting it back on the decision maker that you’ve made them aware of some risks. If that person then says, ‘You either pay it or you don’t have my business’, then you as a professional need to make a decision if it is a high risk or a low risk if you proceed.”

Accessorial liability in the spotlight, warns ICB
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