Penalties for Non-Payment of Minimum Entitlements: FWO v GQ Industries Pty Ltd [2020] FCCA 928

Thursday 30 April 2020 @ 12.22 p.m. | Industrial Law | Legal Research

A Fair Work Ombudsman media release has announced that the watchdog has succeeded in securing penalties against G.Q. Industries (a Queensland based construction company) and its director, Brendan Paul Angus, over the non-payment of entitlements to two full-time carpentry apprentices who worked on construction sites between September 2013 and June 2015.  The case, Fair Work Ombudsman v G.Q. Industries Pty Ltd & Anor [2020] FCCA 928 was decided on 24 April 2020.

According to the media release, the construction company  “… failed to pay a range of minimum entitlements owed under the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010, including base rates for some ordinary hours, Saturday penalty rates, overtime rates, public holiday pay, annual and personal leave entitlements, safety net contractual entitlements and travel entitlements”.

The court found that Mr Angus and his company also took adverse action by refusing to provide work or pay to one of the apprentices for 11 weeks after the apprentice took two days of sick leave - despite providing a doctor’s certificate. The apprentice’s training contract required him to be provided with 38 hours’ work per week.

Referring to the adverse action taken by the employer, Judge Egan noted in his judgment at [para 11]:

“The contraventions were in most instances indicative of an employer playing lip service to the statutory obligations imposed upon it to pay wages on a timely basis … the contraventions included an egregious example of adverse action being taken against the employee [Melit] as punishment for him legitimately taking two (2) days sick leave, by reason of illness, certified as such by his general practitioner.”

The Court further found that laws relating to frequency-of-pay, record-keeping and pay slips were also breached. The company failed to provide any pay slips to one of the apprentices for 16 months.

The Penalties

The Court secured penalties of $177,174 against the company and its Director after the apprentices were underpaid a total of $32,347. The Court ordered Mr Angus to pay penalties of $29,529 and his company, to pay $147,645 for breaching the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), namely sections 44, 45, 340, 535 and 550.

The Judgment

In his judgment Judge Egan said the contravening conduct was “deliberate” and “could not be viewed as isolated”. His Honour noted at [para 24]:

“The contraventions were serious. They were committed against young and vulnerable employees. The penalties imposed reflect the need for employers, and the persons controlling the employers, to recognise that the provisions of the FWA relating to the payment of employees must be obeyed.”

Comment from the Ombudsman

Commenting in the media release, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said “the penalties should send a clear message that exploitation of apprentices was unacceptable”:

“It is unlawful for employers to take adverse action against a worker for exercising their workplace rights, such as taking sick leave, and we will consider enforcement action whenever this is found. We also treat breaches involving young workers, including apprentices, particularly seriously as they are often vulnerable as they start their careers. Any young workers with concerns should contact us.”


His Honour noted in his judgment that the respondents had been repaid in full following the commencement of the legal proceedings, but said at [para 22-23]:

“… such reimbursement did not occur at the earliest opportunity. The first respondent had benefited from the non-payment of monies due to the apprentices for a period of two (2) years. There has been little co-operation on the part of either respondent with the applicant”.

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