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Accountant Facing Court

Accountant Facing Court

Accountant Facing Court over client underpaying workers

Accountant Facing Court

Gavin: In a rather disturbing development, the Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal proceedings against a Victorian accounting firm in relation to its alleged involvement in the underpayment of workers. We are going to follow this case closely and possibly seek a legal opinion on its wider ramifications once it’s settled.

The Following are excerpts from the Media Release:

A Victorian accounting firm will face court over its alleged involvement in underpaying two Taiwanese backpackers working for one of its clients.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in Melbourne against the accounting firm, the client and its operations manager.

It is the first time the Ombudsman has initiated proceedings against an accountant for allegedly knowingly being involved in contraventions of workplace law.

The firm provided payroll services for its client a fast food outlet in Melbourne QV in the CBD.

Two Taiwanese employees in Australia on 417 working holiday visas were allegedly underpaid a total of $9,549 between September 2014 and April 2015.

The accounting firm allegedly processed wage payments for the two workers, knowing the rates they were being paid were well below the lawful minimum.

The accounting firm and its client each face court penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention, and the operations manager faces penalties of up to $10,200 per breach.

The client had previously been audited in 2014 by the Fair Work Ombudsman and it was put on notice about its workplace obligations after it was found to have underpaid 12 employees a total of $8,800.

The accounting firm was also apprised if minimum award rates at the time of the audit, as it assisted the client to calculate and rectify the wage underpayments.

The Fair Wok Ombudsman said that, for some years now, it has been looking closely at the involvement of the third parties in contraventions of workplace law.

‘’We have been concerned about the role of key advises, such as accountants and HR professionals, in some serious and deliberate contraventions,’’ said.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said ‘’Small business relies heavily on trusted advisers, and if they give incorrect or bad advice, or deliberately assist with the contravention, should they not be held accountable?

‘’In situations where we believe accountants or othe5r professionals knowingly facilitate contraventions of workplace laws, we are prepared to hold them to account.’’

Ref: Fair Work Ombudsman Media Release- 19 February 2016

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