By Leigh Johnston
The former operator of a dental practice based in Melbourne has been penalised $5,355 and ordered to back-pay a former 457 visa-holder $32,889 plus interest, following a second court order.
The young dental technician was a Chinese national; who was being sponsored by the clinic on a 457 skilled worker visa.
The worker was paid a flat rate of just $15 per hour between March 2012 and February 2014.
This resulted in him being underpaid the base hourly, Saturday, overtime and public holiday rates required under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010.
During the initial investigation, the young man in his 20s gave evidence that the underpayment left him struggling to pay living expenses and bills. He also gave evidence of asking his family for assistance, requesting to borrow $20,000.
Last year, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) took the employer and operator of the clinic to court and handed down a Compliance Notice; requiring the dental clinic to back-pay the Chinese employee who had been underpaid over a two-year period.
After the operator disregarded the court’s Compliance Notice, the Federal Circuit Court imposed a penalty and back-payment order.
Judge Karl Blake found that the operator deliberately breached the Fair Work Act by disregarding the Compliance Notice.
“It reflects poorly on [the operator], however, that a person of his apparent means would seek to trivialise what is a significant sum of money for a person who is reliant on the minimum terms and conditions set out in awards and legislation,” Judge Blake said.
It is the second time the FWO has commenced legal action against the same dental clinic operator. Back in 2015, the FWO alleged that a Korean dental technician on a 457 visa at was underpaid more than $66,000. The matter is still before the court.
Noting the operator had not shown any remorse and remained the director of three companies, Judge Blake said there was a need to impose a penalty to deter him from further breaches.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the matter should operate as a forewarning to employers about the significant consequences of disregarding Compliance Notices.
“As recently announced, Fair Work Inspectors are increasingly using Compliance Notices to address underpayments and we will not tolerate them being ignored,” Ms Parker said.
“The clear message to employers is that if you don’t comply with the terms of a Compliance Notice, we won’t hesitate from taking you to court to enforce them and seek additional penalties.”