The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking legal action against a Sydney childcare operator that allegedly failed to pay two migrant workers for a year of work.
The owner and operator of the centre and his company face the Federal Circuit Court for allegedly treating two workers as trainees when working as employees.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the two female childcare workers originally from China were paid nothing despite being entitled to a total of $54,752 in wages, public holiday and annual leave entitlements for a year’s work between February 2016 and February 2017.
One worker is a permanent resident and the other was a visa-holder when she worked for the childcare centre.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the workers performed general childcare duties in return for enrolment in a Diploma in Early Childhood Education at a training institute.
The Fair Work Ombudsman said it considered several weeks of initial unpaid work performed by the
two workers to have been part of a vocational placement that was a legitimate part of their
However, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the work performed went well beyond the work experience hours required under the course and that the workers were lawfully entitled to be paid for the work performed when they were not undertaking a vocational placement.
The Fair Work Ombudman has alleged that one of the workers, aged 42, was a full-time employee and was entitled to have been paid $35,062 and the other, aged 25, was a part-time employee and was entitled to $19,690.
The childcare centre operator faces a maximum penalty of $6300 and his company faces a
maximum penalty of $31,500.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for the operator and his company to
back-pay the employees in full.
A directions hearing is scheduled for the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney for June 18.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said legitimate internship and work placements can be a genuine way for people to gain skills to help them find jobs.
“The system allows for unpaid work in some circumstances – for example, where they are part of an approved program. But the law prohibits the exploitation of workers by characterising them as ‘interns’ or as doing ‘work experience’ when those individuals are fulfilling the role of an employee. Such workers must be paid minimum employee entitlements,” she said.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.