Ignoring compliance notices comes with 'serious consequences'

Ombudsman warns companies against ignoring formal demands to back-pay underpaid workers

October 14, 2013

Businesses are being warned that ignoring notices from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to back-pay underpaid workers comes with "serious consequences".

The FWO issued a reminder following recent cases involving businesses that have refused to abide by them.

Ombudsman inspectors have the power to issue compliance notices requiring companies to back-pay underpaid employees within 28 days of receiving the notice.

"Under the Fair Work Act, employers must comply with compliance notices issued by Fair Work inspectors, unless they have a reasonable excuse, or make a court application to challenge the Notice," The FWO’s Natalie James says.

"Simply ignoring a compliance notice is unlawful and serious consequences apply.

"If we choose to take the matter to court, companies face a penalty of up to $25,500 and individuals face a penalty of up to $5,100 for failing to comply with a compliance notice, on top of a court order to rectify the underpayment in full."

The FWO is currently prosecuting three businesses, all in the restaurant sector, for failing to comply with notices ordering them to back-pay underpaid staff.

James says the cases are the first legal actions the FWO has commenced in the courts for alleged failure to comply with compliance notices.

"We decided to launch legal action in these cases because enforcing compliance notices is fundamental for maintaining the integrity of Australia’s workplace laws," James says.

"Fair Work inspectors are increasingly issuing compliance notices in cases where employers with contravention issues refuse to cooperate and we will not tolerate these compliance notices being ignored."

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