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A range of free tools and resources are available for employers at the Fair Work website: <a href="www.fairwork.gov.au" target="_blank">fairwork.gov.au</a>
A range of free tools and resources are available for employers at the Fair Work website: fairwork.gov.au

Mining services company forced to repay more than $2 million

A Victorian-based mining services company has been required to repay more than $2 million to workers it involuntarily short-changed over four years.

Deepcore Australia underpaid 205 employees a total of $2.09 million for work they performed at mines in regional Victoria and Queensland between 2010 and 2014.

The company, which provides drilling services to mine operators, agreed to back-pay the workers as part of an enforceable undertaking (EU) entered into with the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman.

The hefty back-payment bill, one of the largest enforced by the Fair Work Ombudsman, was a result of Deepcore’s failure to pay minimum entitlements.

The underpaid workers included current and former employees who performed drilling duties and maintenance-related trades. A number were young workers.

Four employees were underpaid more than $50,000, with the largest underpayment being $55,446. Thirty-three workers were underpaid more than $20,000 and 99 employees were short-changed more than $5000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after first receiving requests for assistance from Deepcore employees in August 2015.

Inspectors found Deepcore had failed to correctly calculate the all-purpose allowance under the Mining Industry Award.

It also failed to pay night shift penalty rates to Victorian employees and Saturday penalty rates to Queensland employees, as stipulated under the award.

The company blamed the underpayments on its failure to properly understand the arrangements for transitioning to modern awards, erroneous legal and accounting advice and challenges associated with its expanding workforce.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said Deepcore admitted its contraventions and co-operated with inspectors.

“We have entered into an EU with the company in an effort to encourage behavioural change and ensure future compliance with workplace laws,” she said. 

As of June 2016, Deepcore had reimbursed more than $1 million to current employees it had underpaid. It will repay former workers by March 2017. The company will pay employees 1.5 per cent interest on all reimbursements.

Under the terms of the EU, Deepcore also agreed to:

  • Donate $15,000 to the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre in regional Victoria. The centre provides free legal advice to central Victorians who cannot afford a lawyer or are ineligible for legal aid.
  • Engage an independent specialist to audit its compliance with wages and work-related entitlements, record-keeping and pay-slip obligations.
  • Apologise to all underpaid employees.
  • Display a workplace notice and a media notice in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper detailing the contraventions, the terms of the EU and apologising for its actions.
  • Register with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s My Account portal (fairwork.gov.au/my-account/registerpage.aspx).
  • Upgrade systems and processes to ensure future compliance with workplace laws.
  • Commission workplace relations training for all managerial staff with human resource and payroll responsibilities.
  • Set up a dedicated email address for employees with inquiries about underpayments.

In addition, Deepcore has appointed a manager of human resources, safety and training to ensure it is now paying employees correctly.

James said the matter highlighted the need for employers to take time to ensure they were aware of the correct minimum lawful entitlements that applied to their employees.

“Underpayments of minimum entitlements, left unchecked over time, can lead to employers facing big back-payment bills they were not budgeting for,” she said.

EUs were introduced by legislation in 2009, and the Fair Work Ombudsman has used them to achieve strong outcomes against companies that breach workplace laws, without the need for civil proceedings.

“We use EUs where we have formed a view that a breach of law has occurred, but where the employer has acknowledged this, accepted responsibility and agreed to co-operate and fix the problem,” James said.

She said the agency offered a range of free tools and resources for employers at the Fair Work website – fairwork.gov.au – which include template documentation to use when hiring, managing and dismissing staff, letters of engagement and probation, timesheet and payslip templates, leave application forms and a self-audit checklist.

The mobile-friendly Pay and Conditions Tool, which was accessed more than 2.2 million times in 2015, can help business owners calculate the correct pay for their employees.

A series of best practice guides is also available on a range of topics, including small business and the Fair Work Act.

Employers can also call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 between 8am and 5.30pm weekdays to obtain free advice and assistance from a team of expert advisers.

Source: Fair Work Australia.




















Tuesday, 25 September, 2018 05:35am
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