ABCC secures penalties against carpenter for failure to settle underpayments to apprentice

ABCC secures penalties against carpenter for failure to settle underpayments to apprentice

The proprietor of a carpentry business has received additional penalties in the Federal Circuit and Family Court for failing to comply with statutory notices arising from an ABCC investigation into underpayment of wages.

The initial investigation identified that the employer, JG, who trades as Jake Gray’s Carpentry, underpaid a first-year apprentice at least $11,392.12. The underpayments included amounts for wages, overtime, annual leave entitlements and allowances.

Despite being employed on a full-time basis, the apprentice was paid just $1,350.00 in the period between December 2019 and June 2020. He was not paid any overtime, travel allowance or superannuation.

The ABCC issued a Notice to Produce to Mr G in June 2020, which afforded him the opportunity to repay the outstanding entitlements to the apprentice. However, there was no response or compliance to the Notice from the employer.

Subsequently, on 19 November 2020, the ABCC issued a Compliance Notice directing Mr G to back pay the apprentice. Again, there was no response of compliance from the employer leading to the Commission taking legal action.

In her decision, Judge Heather Riley was scathing of the employer and his conduct throughout the matter. As she noted,

Mr G has not demonstrated any contrition. Indeed, his failure to engage with the proceedings is indicative of disdain for the law, the court, the Commissioner and (the apprentice). Mr G has not undertaken any corrective action, even though the orders made on 19 August 2021 set out exactly what he needed to do. Indeed, the Commissioner indicated exactly what Mr G needed to do by way of corrective action in the statement of claim. Mr G has not co-operated with the authorities at all. He has not made any admissions, except by default. He has put the Commissioner to the expense and inconvenience of pursuing this matter”.

Judge Riley also raised concerns that the apprentice was a vulnerable person, being only 18 years old during his employment. As she noted, “This is a very significant aspect of the circumstances of the contraventions”.  

Consequently, Judge Riley believed it was appropriate to issue near maximum penalties against Mr G of $4,000 per contravention.

She also ordered that Mr G pay the legal costs of the ABCC in bringing the matter to court.

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v G [2022] FedCFamC2G 29 (27 January 2022)

For questions about compliance, the ABCC, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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