Facing the Federal Circuit Court are Mohammad Arif Rana and his family’s company, Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd, which was formerly the franchisee of several Caltex service stations.
The FWO alleges its attempt to audit the franchisee’s outlets was obstructed by the provision of falsified wage records.
The regulator issued Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd with a Notice to Produce, and Mr Rana and the company provided records to show the hours and wage rates for 15 employees at the Dural and Ermington outlets in north-west Sydney.
The FWO alleges the time and wage records provided could not be correct, because the company had been knowingly using its payroll software in a manner that produced false records.
Further, it is alleged that Mr Rana and the company also contravened laws requiring employers to issue employees with accurate pay slips within one day of being paid.
Broadly, the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 has increased the maximum penalties available when legal action is taken in civil jurisdictions for conduct including false records.
“The maximum penalties available in the civil courts for some serious conduct that occurs today or in the future are now significantly higher than the penalties available to be imposed in matters such as this one, where the allegedly contravening conduct pre-dates the commencement of the act,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.
The FWO has been pursuing Caltex franchisees nationally after concerns about underpayments and non-compliance within its network.
The regulator found poor bookkeeping practices contributed to its recent action against a Five Dock outlet in Sydney’s inner west.
Further, record-keeping practices have been high on the regulator's hit list. Last financial year, about two-thirds of the FWO's court cases involved alleged poor record-keeping or pay slip contraventions.
“We see far too many cases of businesses failing to get the basics right when it comes to record-keeping and regrettably it’s often workers who get hit the hardest as a lack of accurate records can make it difficult to determine if they have received their correct entitlements,” said Ms James.