THE former manager of a Great Western Highway roadhouse near Lithgow has been fined almost $20,000 for failing to pay government-funded parental leave to an employee.
The Fair Work Ombudsman fined Kulpreet Singh, the former manager and part-owner of the United Petroleum roadhouse at Marrangaroo, $19,720 while Noorpreet Pty Ltd – a company that includes Mr Singh as a director – has been penalised a further $98,700.
The FWO found Mr Singh had deprived an Indian employee of her government-funded parental leave pay by falsely claiming he had paid the money to the employee’s husband.
The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court, are the result of the FWO’s first legal action against an employer for failing to transfer Paid Parental Leave funds to an employee.
The employee had worked as a chef at the roadhouse on a 487 skilled regional employer nomination visa. She is now an Australian citizen.
After the employee had a child, the Department of Human Services (DHS) transferred $11,538 to Noorpreet in April 2015 for the company to transfer to her.
The employee was entitled to the funds under the Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.
After making several unsuccessful requests to Mr Singh, the employee complained to the DHS that her employer had not paid her the funds.
The DHS was not able to resolve the matter and referred it to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
When the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated, Mr Singh provided a Fair Work inspector with a false document purporting to show that he paid the parental leave funds in cash to the employee’s husband in May 2015.
After the Fair Work Ombudsman challenged the veracity of the document and repeatedly demanded payment, Mr Singh and Noorpreet eventually paid the parental leave funds to the employee in October 2015.
In court, Mr Singh and Noorpreet admitted committing a contravention of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, as well as a number of contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws under the Fair Work Act.
Judge Nick Nicholls said that Singh had engaged in a “deliberate deception”.
Judge Nicholls said Singh had “lied” and that the failure to transfer the parental leave pay was “an express and active intervention” to deprive the employee of her payments.
“Mr Singh was, to be blunt, well and truly caught out by the FWO, perpetrating a deliberate falsehood in relation to the false payment record,” Judge Nicholls said.
Judge Nicholls found that Singh had not displayed any true remorse and that some of the excuses he made for not paying the paid Parental Leave pay to the employee sooner were “absurd”.
In setting the penalties, Judge Nicholls said the possibility of Mr Singh going bankrupt “cannot weigh in Mr Singh’s favour in relation to the assessment of deterrence”.
“Even if this were to be a consequence of the penalty order, it is not a sufficient reason to not set the penalty at the otherwise ‘appropriate’ level,” Judge Nicholls said.
Judge Nicholls also said that it was important to set a penalty that signals disapproval of the conduct and serves as a general deterrent to others in the hospitality industry.
Extracted from Mandurah Mail.