Dairy farmer to face court over underpayments

The operator of a dairy farm in the Toowoomba region in Queensland is set to face court over his failure to comply with a notice to back-pay an employee.

Mark Leonard Hess, who operates a dairy farm business trading as M.L. Hess Dairy Producer at Maclagan, allegedly underpaid a working holiday visa-holder from France, who was employed on a casual basis to do general farm work, house cleaning and to milk and feed cows between August and November 2019.

The Fair Work inspector who looked into the matter believed the employee had been underpaid casual minimum rates and was not paid penalty rates for public holiday work in accordance with the Pastoral Award 2010, which formed the basis for the issuance of a Compliance Notice to Hess in February this year.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) allege that Hess failed to comply with the notice which required him to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements without reasonable excuse .

The FWO also allege that Hess breached workplace laws by having failed to issue payslips to the employee and keep records of the employee’s hours of work.

In line with the FWO’s proportionate approach to regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FWO made several attempts to secure voluntary compliance before commencing legal action.

The FWO is seeking a penalty against Hess and a court order to comply with the Compliance Notice, which includes rectifying any underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest. Hess faces maximum penalties per contravention ranging of $6300 to $13,320.

A directions hearing has been listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on 13 November 2020.