The operators of the Barkly Homestead, between Tennant Creek and Camooweal, have been penalised $56,766, after ignoring pay advice and underpaying more than a dozen foreign backpackers.
The Federal Circuit Court in Alice Springs has penalised David Mayne Pty Ltd, which trades as the Barkly Homestead, $48,320 after admitting to underpaying the 17 employees a total of $23,753 while homestead manager and company shareholder Andrew Mayne was penalised $8446.
The penalties are the result of legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman whose inspectors visited the business in a regional campaign that involved audits of 38 businesses in the Alice Springs and Barkly regions.
Inspectors found David Mayne Pty Ltd had paid 17 workers at the Barkly Homestead a flat rate of $19.21 for all hours worked between October 2015 and April 2016.
The workers were full-time cleaners and waiters, and most were overseas workers in Australia on 417 visas.
They worked an average of 48 hours per week, leading to significant underpayment of their weekday overtime rates.
Under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 at the time, they were entitled to $27.71 an hour for each of the first two hours of overtime and $36.94 for additional overtime thereafter.
Some workers were also underpaid a broken shift allowance and Sunday and public holiday penalty rates.
Underpayments of individual workers ranged from $623 to $3763. The workers were repaid last year apart for three who have not been found.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is holding the back-payments for the three workers as it attempts to locate them.
The underpayments occurred despite the company getting advice from an industrial relations specialist that detailed how it could lawfully paying employees an annualised salary or pay employees the prescribed penalty and overtime rates under that Award.
The Ombudsman told Court the company ignored both options – and also failed to seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Hotels Association, which it was a member of - and instead chose to short-change its employees for its own benefit.
Mr Mayne said hehad simply overlooked the company’s obligations due to pressure of work in the business.
However, Judge Tony Young said he “had some difficulty accepting that the breaches were the result of inadvertence”.