A Queensland transport business operator is set to face the Federal court for allegedly implementing an unlawful cashback arrangement involving JobKeeper payments.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Khan Andrew Buchanan, operator of the RiverCity Bus Service which offers school and charter bus services in and around the Brisbane and Logan areas, employed a bus driver on a casual basis between 2017 and 2020. Between March and September 2020, Mr Buchanan received fortnightly $1500 JobKeeper payments from the Commonwealth Government intended for the driver and transferred these payments in full to the driver’s bank account. The driver’s usual wages each fortnight were never more than the $1500 JobKeeper payments.
However, Buchanan is alleged to have breached the Fair Work Act by requiring the driver to enter into a cashback arrangement in which the driver would have to pay to Buchanan each week an amount that is approximately equal to the difference between the net JobKeeper payment he received into his bank account and his wages received for hours worked in the previous week.
In total, Buchanan allegedly unlawfully demanded that the driver to repay him a total of $5805 in JobKeeper payments during that period.
The FWO also allege that Buchanan committed a further breach of the Fair Work Act in September 2020, when he received a $1500 JobKeeper payment from the Commonwealth Government but only paid the driver $1035.60 of the payment.
Buchanan had rectified the alleged underpayments in full earlier this year after being contacted by Fair Work Inspectors and back-paid the employee a total of $6270.40.
“Cashback allegations are treated particularly seriously by the Fair Work Ombudsman and we will not tolerate any employers unlawfully requiring workers to pay back any of their wages or entitlements,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.
The FWO is seeking court-imposed penalties against Buchanan who faces penalties up to $13,320 per contravention for the two contraventions. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Brisbane on 20 September 2021.