Han’s Café Rockingham outlet in Perth has become the first venue in Western Australia to face legal action under the ‘serious contraventions’ provisions of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Tac Pham Pty Ltd, the former franchisee of the outlet, and Cuc Thi Thu Pham, the former general manager of the outlet, underpaid vulnerable workers despite having previously faced court over similar conduct.
In March 2018, Tac Pham Pty Ltd was fined $37,500 for underpaying 22 workers at the Han’s Café Rockingham at various times between December 2014 and December 2015.
This time around, it’s claimed 11 employees, including a number of young and migrant workers, were underpaid a total of $5,022 between October 2017 and April 2018. All underpayments have since been rectified, but the company and Pham may also have breached payslip laws.
It’s the alleged repeat offending that has the franchisee in hot water. The FWO argues it means two of the contraventions meet the definition of ‘serious contraventions’ under the Protecting Vulnerable Laws.
The laws came into effect in September 2017, with maximum penalties for serious contraventions 10 times the penalties that would normally apply. That means Tac Pham Pty Ltd and Pham could be slapped with $630,000 and $126,000 per breach, respectively.
In addition to the penalties faced for the alleged ‘serious contraventions’, Tac Pham Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention for other alleged contraventions and Ms Pham faces penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention for other alleged contraventions.
Tac Pham Pty Ltd and Pham will face court on 13 February 2020.
Han’s Café Rockingham becomes third venue to face increased penalties
It is the third matter nationally, and the first in WA, in which the FWO has alleged the increased maximum penalties should apply.
In August 2019, the operators of two sushi outlets in Queensland copped $125,000 in penalties after the FWO successfully secured sought to have the laws applied.
At the time Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said, “This is the first decision in a matter filed by the Fair Work Ombudsman under the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws, which increased penalties for record-keeping and pay slip breaches. Accurate and timely record-keeping is a fundamental employment obligation and businesses are on notice to comply.
“Workers have a right to rely on pay slips to understand their workplace entitlements, particularly visa holders who may be vulnerable due to language or cultural barriers. We will continue to take court action to protect vulnerable workers and anyone with concerns should contact us.”
A third case pertained to court action against a retailer who allegedly breached the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws by committing serious contraventions and hindering-or-obstructing Fair Work inspectors.