Misclassification as Apprentice Leads to Underpayment

A young worker at a Mackay business was underpaid $16,800 as a result of being paid apprentice rates between 2010 and 2012, despite his employer not officially registering him for an apprenticeship.

Under workplace laws, only workers who are registered as apprentices with the appropriate State authority can be classified and paid as apprentices.

Fair Work ombudsman, Natalie James, said the case highlights the importance of classifying employees correctly. “Even a small error in calculating an employee’s base hourly rate can result in a large amount having to be repaid if it’s left unchecked, as occurred in this case,” Ms James said. “No business wants to face a big bill for back-payment of wages they weren’t budgeting for.”

Ms James said when Fair Work Inspectors identify a problem and contact a business, most employers cross-check their records, realise they have made an error and fix it immediately.

A Hervey Bay resort receptionist underpaid the minimum hourly rate in 2010-11 has received $5200 in back pay after the Fair Work ombudsman stepped in.

She is among a group underpaid Queensland workers back paid a total of $97,600 after intervention by the ombudsman. In all the cases, Fair Work inspectors helped the employers voluntarily back pay the employees and no further action was required, Ms James said.

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