Homewares store in trouble for underpaying employee $60,000

A Sydney retailer is facing legal action after allegedly underpaying an employee $60,000 despite previous warnings.

The Fair Work Ombudsman accuses bedlinen and homewares store JPA Manchester (trading as Benson Australia) of short-changing a shop assistant who worked at its Redfern and Miranda stores more than $60,000 over almost four years.

The retailer has been under investigation before when it was found to have underpaid another employee more than $27,000. It was then instructed to revamp its workplace practices to ensure compliance under the terms of an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) entered into with the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2014.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says JPA Manchester allegedly flouting the commitments made under the EU was a key factor in the decision to commence legal action.

“It is completely unacceptable to continue to allegedly blatantly underpay an employee after being put on notice to comply,” she explains.

JPA Manchester faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention, and owner Jia Ping Ou faces penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking court orders for the retailer to back-pay the employee, commission an audit of its compliance with workplace laws and for Ou and JPA Manchester’s managerial staff to undertake workplace relations training.

An injunction restraining JPA Manchester from underpaying workers in future is also being sought.

By Marion Gerritsen