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Massage parlour allegedly ripped off employee $13,000

(Photo: Getty)

A Victoria-based massage parlour owner will have to face the music for allegedly underpaying a Chinese worker $13,522 and providing false records to inspectors.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has begun legal action against Austop Natural Therapy and Supplies Pty Ltd, which operated a massage parlour trading under the name ‘Yin’s Chinese Massage’ in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and formerly operated another parlour by the same name in Ballarat.

However, no allegations are being made against the current owners of Yin’s Chinese Massage in Ballarat, the FWO indicated.

The employee was allegedly only paid a percentage of the total price of each massage she did at the Ballarat parlour rather than the full hourly rate of pay in accordance with the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.

This meant the worker was allegedly underpaid her ordinary hourly rates, overtime rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, as well as superannuation and leave entitlements.

Austop also allegedly failed to ensure the employee didn’t work more than six days in a row.

Company directors Yusen Yin and company secretary Wenhua Liu are allegedly involved in the underpayments.

The two face penalties of $12,600 per contravention, while the company itself will have to fork out $63,000 per contravention.

The FWO is also taking action against Keith Golding & Associates Pty Ltd, an accounting firm engaged by the company allegedly involved in false records breaches, which may face penalties of up to $21,000 per breach.

Of the $13,522 that the employee was allegedly underpaid, a “small fraction” still remains to be paid, according to the FWO.

Austop allegedly breached workplace laws by failing to provide pay slips to staff and that Keith Golding & Associates knowingly provided inspectors with false records and pay slips that they knew to be misleading.

Parker warned that the FWO would use laws to hold professional services firms to account if they’re involved in breaching workplace laws.

“Third parties such as accountants should be aware that they can be ordered by a court to pay employees’ unpaid wages and entitlements, as well as penalties, if found to be involved,” said Parker.

FWO crackdown on employers exploiting migrant workers

FWO Sandra Parker indicated the breaches were discovered after the worker, who was in Australia on a subclass 462 Work and Holiday visa, made contact with the Ombudsman.

“We prioritise any requests for assistance from migrant workers, who can be particularly vulnerable due to language or cultural barriers and may not be aware of their workplace rights,” Parker said.

“All employees in Australia have the same rights at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status, and we encourage anyone with concerns about their pay to contact us.”

A directions hearing is scheduled for 30 April 2019 in Melbourne’s Federal Circuit Court.

The FWO will seek a court order that requires Austop to display a workplace notice detailing information about employee entitlements and how to get in touch with the FWO.

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