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Breaching the Fair Work Act: An Increase in Penalties

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A new Federal Bill, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Penalty Unit) Bill 2015, is proposed to amend the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) to increase the value of a penalty unit for Commonwealth criminal offences, and will impact upon penalties which can be ordered by a Court under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW Act) for breaches of workplace laws.

Penalties for breaching the Fair Work Act are set to rise, with individuals facing fines of $10,800 and corporations facing possible $54,000 penalties.

The increases are generally modest. Currently, individuals face $10,200 fines while corporations face $51,000 fines.

The changes are part of a new Federal Bill, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Penalty Unit Bill 2015, which proposes to amend the Crimes Act 1914 to increase the penalties that can be ordered by a court under the Fair Work Act.

It is expected that if passed, the bill will come into effect in late July 2015.

The new penalties would be the maximum fines that could be handed out for contravention of the National Employment Standards, a modern award or an enterprise agreement.

It is vitally important that all company directors and owners, as well as individuals, be aware of the serious consequences that can result from a breach of the Fair Work Act.

Courts aren’t afraid to hand out the penalties, either.

For example, A Sydney businessman was recently fined for underpaying workers at his former childcare centre more than $360,000, leaving some struggling to pay their rent.

The Federal Circuit Court imposed a penalty of $28,900 against Mark Edward Myles, who formerly owned and operated the Bollygum Childcare Centre in western Sydney.

Also, penalties totaling $90,000 were recently imposed against a security contractor in regional Queensland who failed to pay four employees almost $10,000 for work they performed.

Koongal man Douglas Charles Kidd has been fined $15,000 and his Airlie Beach-based company Mordel Pty Ltd, which trades as Spartan Security Group, has been fined a further $75,000.

Breaching the Fair Work Act is very serious.

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides protections of certain rights, including:

  • workplace rights
  • the right to engage in industrial activities
  • the right to be free from unlawful discrimination
  • the right to be free from undue influence or pressure in negotiating individual arrangements.

These rights are protected from certain unlawful actions, including (but not limited to):

  • adverse action
  • coercion
  • misrepresentations
  • undue influence or pressure in relation to:
  • individual flexibility arrangements under modern awards and enterprise agreements
  • guarantees of annual earnings
  • deductions from wages.

It is always best to try and solve a workplace dispute directly with your employer, but when things don’t change and you believe there has been a breach of the Fair Work Act, it’s very important to file a complaint so action can be taken on your behalf.

The increase in fines set to be introduced aim to act as a further deterrent and encourage employers to do the right thing.

27 Jul, 15

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