WARNING all Accountants, Bookkeepers, HR Advisors and Payroll Advisors
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has, for the first time, prosecuted an accounting firm for its role in a client’s breach of the Fair Work Act.
The operator of a Japanese fast-food chain in Melbourne was taken to court by the FWO for underpaying two of its workers.
The workers were alledgedly paid flat rates as low as $16.50 per hour, which is below the minimum hourly rate and not enough to cover loading entitlements.
The FWO commenced legal proceedings against:-
- the operator;
- one of its managers; and
- the operator’s accountancy firm, which provided bookeeping and data entry services and was run by a certified practising accountant.
The Court only needed to consider the allegations that the accountancy firm was involved in the operator’s contraventions because the accountancy firm processed wage payments for the two workers, knowing the rates they were being paid were below minimum standards.
The penalty hearing is to following but it is likely penalties will be imposed on the accounting firm.
Business advisors such as accountants and payroll providers should pay particular attention to this decision and ensure they take steps to reduce the risk of being held liable as an accessory in any Fair Work Ombudsman prosection.
Should you require advice, whether your an employer or employee, regarding an Employment Agreement please do not hesitate to contact our office and speak with one of our Employment Law solicitors.