Article Category - Business Law Employment Law 03 May 2019

The horticultural sector is under a microscope at the moment, after a string of headlines involving underpayment of International workers – especially those working as fruit pickers.

Most recently, an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found that a labour-hire company had failed to correctly pay 19 Vanuatu Nationals employed as fruit pickers under the Seasonal Worker Programme.

The company’s Enterprise Agreement and Piecework Agreements provided for workers to be paid based on their individual productivity. However, the labour-hire company was paying workers a group Piecework rate, based on how much fruit the entire team picked. In addition, no records were kept of actual hours worked; making it impossible for the company to determine if the amounts paid sufficiently compensated the workers.

To avoid prosecution, the company signed a court enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman, requiring it to pay:

  • $50,823 to the 19 workers, and a
  • $15,000 fine.

This could have been avoided if the company had: 

  • Ensured that its workers were paid in accordance with their Piecework Agreements, and
  • Kept accurate records of how many hours each person had worked.

This is especially important as the Fair Work Ombudsman begins to implement the recommendations from its Harvest Trail Inquiry report released last year, which will give further protections to workers in the horticultural sector and therefore require further efforts and attention to detail from employers to ensure compliance with workplace laws.

The team at Kenny Spring Solicitors are experts in the area of Employment Law, and if you have any questions about your rights and obligations relating to staff and workplace agreements, make sure you give our expert team a call on 1800 650 656 in Bathurst, Lithgow or Oberon. We’re here to help!

Aaron Strickland | Solicitor