A roadhouse manager has been slapped with a hefty fine after creating fake records and pocketing his employee’s nearly $12,000 in parental leave funds.
Kulpreet Singh, from NSW, has been penalised $19,720 after he tried to deprive an Indian employee of her government-funded parental leave pay by falsely claiming he provided the pay to the employee’s husband.
The former manager and part-owner of the United Petroleum roadhouse at Marrangaroo, near Lithgow in NSW’s Central West region, was given $11,538 by the Department of Human Services (DHS) for his company to give to the employee following the birth of her child.
Noorpreet Pty Ltd, a company Singh is a director of, has been penalised a further $98,700, bringing the amount The Fair Work Ombudsman managed to secure in penalties in court to $118,440.
The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court, are the result of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s first legal action against an employer for failing to transfer paid parental leave funds to an employee.
The affected employee worked as a chef at the roadhouse on a 487 skilled regional employer nomination visa. She is now an Australian citizen.
The employee was entitled to the funds under the federal government’s paid parental leave scheme.
After failing to acquire the money from Singh following several requests, the employee complained to the DHS that her employer had not paid her the funds.
The DHS referred the incident to the Fair Work Ombudsman after failing to resolve the matter.
When the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated, Singh handed a Fair Work inspector with a false document purporting to show that he paid the parental leave funds in cash to the employee’s husband in May 2015.
After the Fair Work Ombudsman challenged the authenticity of the document and repeatedly demanded payment, Singh and Noorpreet eventually paid the parental leave funds to the employee in October 2015, more than five months after they were due.
In Court, Singh and Noorpreet admitted committing a contravention of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, as well as a number of contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws under the Fair Work Act.
The penalties imposed for the record-keeping contraventions were between 75 and 90 per cent of the possible maximums and the penalty for the paid parental leave contravention was 75 per cent of the possible maximum, The Fair Work Ombudsman said in a press release.
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Judge Nick Nicholls said that Singh had engaged in a “deliberate deception” and tried to pull the wool over the eyes of government agencies over his failure to give his employee the payout.
“Mr Singh was, to be blunt, well and truly caught out by the FWO, perpetrating a deliberate falsehood in relation to the false payment record,” Judge Nicholls said.
Judge Nicholls found that Singh had not displayed any true remorse and that some of the excuses he made for not paying the paid Parental Leave pay to the employee sooner were “absurd”.
In setting the penalty amounts, Judge Nicholls said the possibility of Singh’s bankruptcy if the penalty is set at a high level “cannot weigh in Mr Singh’s favour in relation to the assessment of deterrence. Even if this were to be a consequence of the penalty order, it is not a sufficient reason to not set the penalty at the otherwise ‘appropriate’ level.”
Judge Nicholls also said that it was important to set a penalty that signals disapproval of the conduct and serves as a general deterrent to others in the hospitality industry.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says withholding monies funded by Australian taxpayers from a vulnerable worker, and making attempts to deceive the Fair Work Ombudsman is completely unacceptable conduct and should be adequately punished.
“New parents have enough on their minds without having to chase recalcitrant employers over their taxpayer funded paid parental leave,” Ms James said.