A former manager and part-owner of the United Petroleum roadhouse at Marrangaroo has been penalised $19,720 after depriving an employee of government-funded Paid Parental Leave.

His company, Noorpreet Pty ltd, has been fined a further $98,700, bringing the total penalty to a whopping $118,420.

Kulpreet Singh falsely claimed he provided the parental pay to the employee’s husband, which was never the case.

The employee worked as a chef at the roadhouse under a 487 skilled regional employer nomination visa before becoming an Australian citizen.

After the employee had her child, the Department of Human Services (DHS) transferred $11,538 to Noorpreet in April 2015, however he never gave her the funds.

After lodging repeated requests to Singh, the employee complained to DHS she had not received her money.

The Fair Work Ombudsman was called in to investigate, however Singh provided a Fair Work inspector with a false document showing he had paid the 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, Singh and Noorpreet eventually paid the parental leave funds to the employee in October 2015, more than five months after they were due.

In court, 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.

“Singh was well and truly caught out by the FWO, perpetrating a deliberate falsehood in relation to the false payment record,” said Judge Jack Nicholls.

In setting the penalty amounts, Judge Nicholls said the possibility of Singh’s bankruptcy if the penalty is set at a high level “cannot weigh in Singh’s favour in relation to the assessment of deterrence.

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.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says business operators should be aware that the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 has introduced higher penalties for a range of contraventions, including serious record-keeping breaches.

“There are new higher penalties for record-keeping breaches and the risk of criminal prosecution for this self-serving and fraudulent conduct.”

The new penalties apply to conduct that has occurred since the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 came into effect in September 2017.

Maximum penalties for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips have doubled to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records has tripled to $12,600 for an individual.

Image credit: Western Advocate 

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