Farmer Penalised by the Fair Work Ombudsman

A dairy farmer operating in Queensland has been penalised by the Fair Work Ombudsman for delaying back-pay to his employee.

The sole trader, Mark Hess who operated the dairy farm was issued with a compliance notice by the Fair Work Ombudsman requiring him to back-pay an employee and for breaching recordkeeping and payslip laws. Mr Hess failed to comply with the notice given to him, so the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.

As a result, Mr Hess back-paid the employee $6,698.65 in wages and superannuation, however, he was further penalised $17,500 by the Fair Work Ombudsman for failing to act on the Compliance Notice. Therefore, his inaction meant the final order against Mr Hess was 3.6 times more than the original underpayment.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is cracking down on employers who don’t act on Compliance Notices and will take legal action to ensure workers are back-paid for their entitlements. In this case, the worker affected was from France on a working holiday visa doing general farm hand duties.

The Compliance Notice was issued to Mr Hess by a Fair Work Inspector who believed he had underpaid the worker’s casual minimum rates and did not pay penalty rates for public holiday work under the Pastoral Award.

Mr Hess had been previously warned of his obligations in a previous investigation, however, he deliberately chose to not comply with the Fair Work Act. Therefore, the penalty set for Mr Hess was to deter him and others who may engage in similar conduct.

Key Takeaways:

Business owners, including farmers and sole traders, must ensure that their employees are being paid in accordance with their entitlements under the relevant Modern Award.

Where you become aware of an underpayment, ensure you complete back-pay calculations and make the payment within a reasonable time frame.

Where you receive a Compliance Notice or investigation from the Fair Work Ombudsman, act quickly to rectify it to avoid further hefty penalties.

ProcessWorx HR Advisors have experience determining correct pay rates for employees, including those covered by the Pastoral Award. If you have queries about anything above and want advice personalised to your business, contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email

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Written by Danielle McNamee


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