Melbourne dental operators penalised

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underpayment

The former operators of a Melbourne dental practice have been penalised a total of $73,000 for underpaying a visa holder tens of thousands of dollars, following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Ari Masters and Christine Masters, who formerly operated and part-owned the No Brace Centre dental clinic in the Melbourne CBD, have been penalised $55,000 and $18,000, respectively, by the Federal Circuit Court.

The underpaid worker, from South Korea and aged in her late 20s at the time of her employment, was on an international student visa and later a 457 skilled worker visa when she was underpaid $66,945 for work at the clinic as a laboratory technician.

In addition to the penalties, the Masters have been ordered to pay compensation to the worker to cover the underpayment amount, plus interest.

The worker was paid a flat rate of $15 an hour between April 2011 and February 2014—but under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award at the time, she should have been paid $16.90 to $18.93 for ordinary hours and up to $37.85 an hour for overtime.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman has been highlighting for many years that the use of low, flat rates that undercut lawful minimums is a clear breach of workplace laws,” Fair Work ombudsman Sandra Parker said.

“Any employer paying staff with flat rates lower than the relevant minimums faces enforcement action. Any employees with concerns about their pay should contact us.”

Judge Anthony Kelly found that the underpayment—which equated to an average weekly underpayment of $399—had a significant impact on the worker, including requiring her to borrow money from her unemployed mother in Korea to meet living expenses and pay bills.

“The imposition of meaningful penalties is necessary to send the appropriate message that there are serious consequences for failing to comply with the Act and to create an incentive for both the respondents and other employers to change their practices,” Judge Kelly said.

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