Finance and mortgage broking company in court

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the operators of a finance and mortgage broking company in inner-city Sydney.

Facing court are First Step Finance Pty Ltd, in Pyrmont, and the company’s sole director, David Brian Ward.

The regulator investigated after receiving requests for assistance from three workers that First Step Finance employed in management roles between August 2020 and February 2023.

Fair Work Inspectors issued Compliance Notices to the company in August 2021, September 2022 and August 2023 after forming a belief that two of the workers had been underpaid minimum wages for ordinary hours owed under the Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2020 and the National Minimum Wage Order 2022 respectively.

The inspectors also formed a belief that each of the workers were not paid accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements at the end of their employment, owed under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges First Step Finance, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notices, which required it to calculate and back-pay the workers’ entitlements. It is alleged the workers were underpaid a total of $37,016, with one worker allegedly underpaid more than $23,000.

It is alleged First Step Finance also breached the Fair Work Act by knowingly issuing employees false or misleading pay slips.

It is alleged Mr Ward was involved in all the contraventions.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers,” Ms Booth said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The FWO is seeking penalties in court. For the alleged failure to comply with the Compliance Notices, First Step Finance faces penalties of up to $33,300 to $46,950 per contravention and Mr Ward faces penalties of up to $6,660 to $9,390 per contravention.

In addition, for the alleged pay slip contravention, First Step Finance faces a penalty of up $66,600 and Mr Ward faces a penalty of up to $13,320.

The regulator is also seeking court orders requiring the company to rectify the alleged underpayments in full, plus interest and superannuation. A hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Sydney on 12 April 2024.

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