Peter Dagher and his company Aulion Pty Ltd, who formerly operated the Caltex Five Dock service station in inner-western Sydney, have been penalised $16,038 and $80,190 respectively after admitting falsifying records of the wage rates paid to migrant workers.
The penalties are the highest the FWO has secured in a legal action relating solely to record-keeping and pay slip breaches, and are 90 per cent of the possible maximum, secured as a result of legal action in the Federal Circuit Court.
FWO Natalie James said the high penalties were a major warning for businesses and the need for sound record-keeping practices in light of new laws passed late last year that have significantly increased sanction for record-keeping breaches.
“The breaches by this Caltex franchisee occurred in 2016 – but if this same conduct occurred today, the possible sanctions available in Court would be even more significant,” said Ms James.
“Financial penalties for failing to keep records and issue pay slips have significantly increased and any unscrupulous employer that frustrates a Fair Work Ombudsman time-and-wages investigation by using false records can now face prosecution in criminal court.
“A reverse onus of proof can also now apply, meaning that employers who don’t meet record-keeping or pay slip obligations and can’t give a reasonable excuse will need to disprove allegations of underpayments made in a court.”
The FWO has been investigating Caltex since 2016, issuing a public report earlier this year, detailing significant compliance problems among its network of franchisee-operated outlets, including serious record-keeping deficiencies that prevented an assessment of the true extent of underpayments.
“It is incumbent on Caltex to take steps to clean up its business, taking into account the shocking levels of non-compliance identified in FWO’s report, including underpayments and serious record-keeping deficiencies, and the profile of the workers and businesses in its network,” Ms James said.
Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
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Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.