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A company, its director and payroll manager have been penalised $143,000 for underpaying workers $18,000.

The penalties have been imposed over deliberate underpayments at two ‘Hanaichi Japanese Fine Food’ outlets at the Chermside shopping centre.

WY Pty Ltd, which operatesd the two Chermside outlets at the time of the underpayments and currently operates a Hanaichi outlet at Indooroopilly, has been penalised $116,250 in the Federal Circuit Court.

In addition, the company’s director and part-owner Chong Yew Chua has been penalised $20,000.

The company’s former internal payroll and account manager, Ning Yuan Fu, has also been penalised $7000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after the workers lodged requests for assistance, and found they had been paid flat rates as low as $15.60 an hour.

Under the Fast Food Industry Award, as casual employees they should have been paid more than $23 for ordinary hours, and penalty rates of up to $28.49 for Saturday work and up to $52.23 for public holiday work.

A special clothing allowance was also underpaid and unlawful deductions were made from their wages as ‘bonds’ for their uniforms. The workers have now been back-paid in full.

Workplace laws relating to providing employees with a Fair Work Information Statement and information about their classification and status were also contravened.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says “The penalties send a clear message to business operators that if they ignore our warnings to fix up underpayment problems, we are prepared to take legal action and serious consequences will apply.”

“It is significant that the internal payroll and account manager of the business was penalised for being an accessory to the contraventions.”

“While not being primarily responsible for operating the business, this manager was fully aware employees were being deliberately underpaid and helped to facilitate the exploitation of two vulnerable workers,”

“Managerial staff need to be aware that knowingly facilitating the underpayment of employees’ minimum entitlements is serious, unlawful conduct and will not be tolerated.”

In addition to the penalties, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured Court Orders requiring WY Pty Ltd to include Fast Food Industry Award details and Fair Work Ombudsman contact information in all job advertisements it places for two years, including on overseas websites – and to provide new employees with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS) in their language of choice.

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