Tourist homestead faces court for underpaying workers

The operator of a remote Northern Territory homestead is facing major penalties after underpaying 17 employees more than $23,000.

Facing the Federal Circuit Court is David Mayne Pty Ltd, which trades as the Barkly Homestead, offering accommodation, a restaurant and a roadhouse, as well as the homestead manager and part-owner Andrew Mayne. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) alleges 17 employees at the Barkly Homestead were underpaid a total of $23,753 between October 2015 and April 2016, as a result of being paid an inadequate flat rate for all hours worked. David Mayne Pty Ltd and Andrew Mayne have made admissions to all alleged contraventions.

FWO inspectors conducted a self-initiated audit of the company as part of a regional campaign in Alice Springs and the Barkly Region of the Northern Territory. The full results of the campaign will be published shortly. They found that the 17 Barkly Homestead workers, who were engaged on a full-time basis as cleaners, waiters and a gardener, were paid a flat hourly rate of $19.21.

The workers’ Letter of Offer stated that the flat rate was intended to cover all entitlements, including penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work. However, under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 at the time, the employees were entitled to $27.71 for each of the first two hours of overtime and $36.94 for overtime thereafter, Sunday penalty rates of $32.32 and public holiday rates of $46.18.

The company also failed to pay three of the workers a broken shift allowance required under the Award for days when work periods are broken up by more than three hours. Underpayments of individual workers ranged from $623 to $3763. It has rectified all underpayments after the legal action began.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action was being taken due to the significant underpayments across a relatively short period, and the lack of earlier co-operation from the employer.

“With the wealth of free advice and educational material on our website – including in 40 different languages – and the availability of our small business helpline, there is no excuse for employers to make mistakes,” Ms James said.

David Mayne Pty Ltd faces maximum penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention and Andrew Mayne faces penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention. The Fair Work Ombudsman also seeks an order for Andrew Mayne to register with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s online My Account portal and complete all education courses for employers.

The matter is listed for a penalty hearing in the Federal Circuit Court in Alice Springs on 20 February.