In what is a clear judgement outlining that businesses can not close doors to avoid paying penalties, the Federal Court has rejected the appeal against the $210,000 penalties leveled against two business directors operating a service station in the Newcastle area in NSW.
Following the case being presented to the court in 2019, the court found that there was underpayment and ordered repayment of unpaid and underpaid wages, notice and entitlements to two vulnerable workers in excess of $50,000. The amounts owed to the staff were repayed as ordered.
In addition the court ordered the payment of more than $210,000 in penalties directed at the business director and manager.
Rather than pay the penalties the business was placed into liquidation and the penalties were appealed to the Federal Court.
The rulling yesterday dismissing the appeal and requrieng the payment of the penalties as ordered in 2019 makes it clear that businesses and individuals can not escape penalites by closing the businesses doors.
In dismissing the appeal Judge Street noted that placing the business into voluntary liquidation was a clear means of attempting to avoid paying penalties; “The placing of an employer into voluntary liquidation after commencement of proceedings and so shortly [three days] after penalty submissions are filed is serious aggravating conduct warranting severe sanction [by] the Court as a matter of specific and general deterrence.”
For more on the case see: https://acapmag.com.au/2021/02/over-200000-penalties-for-former-petrol-station-operators/
ACAPMA stands clearly against such exploitation of vulnerable workers. There is no defending not paying staff, threatening staff or engaging in deliberate and systemic actions to exploit staff.
It is likely that this new case will again turn the spotlight onto the retail fuel industry, but as has been made clear by the ACAPMA for years; such serious and deliberate breaches should outrage us, should be punished and have no business in our industry. They exploit the most vulnerable of staff and distort competition.
ACAPMA Members are reminded that ACAPMA offers Assisted Compliance Audits to identify potential employment, safety and compliance breaches and then work with the business to ensure any gaps are addressed and systems corrected to prevent unintended compliance issues. For further information on the ACAPMA Assisted Compliance Audits please email firstname.lastname@example.org