The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has taken legal action against Spotless for allegedly breaching workplace law after the services company failed to pay redundancy entitlements to workers it sacked.
The Ombudsman alleges Spotless contravened the Fair Work Act when it failed to pay a total of $29,013 in redundancy entitlements owing to the three workers at Perth International Airport.
The workers were among more than 30 whose employment was terminated by Spotless in 2015 after Spotless’s contracts to provide catering and hospitality services at Perth International Airport expired and were not renewed.
Spotless had employed one of the three workers, an administration/accounts manager, for 32 years and had employed the other two workers, one a retail manager and the other performing various roles, for about four-and-a-half years.
The FWO investigated after the workers lodged requests for assistance.
Under the Fair Work Act, redundancy entitlements are payable when an employee’s job is made redundant unless limited exceptions apply. One exception is where termination of employment is due to the ‘ordinary and customary turnover of labour’. The FWO alleges that exceptions do not apply to these three workers, and that they were entitled to redundancy pay.
Spotless has back-paid the three workers but according to the Ombudsman has not admitted liability under the Fair Work Act.
The Ombudsman alleges Spotless also contravened the Fair Work Act by failing to adhere to the requirement for employers to give written notice to Centrelink before dismissing 15 or more employees in certain circumstances.
FWO Natalie James said it is hoped the legal action will provide greater clarity around the situations in which redundancy entitlements must lawfully be paid.
“Federal Court consideration of this area of the law will serve to provide greater guidance to employers as to situations in which redundancy entitlements must be paid and situations in which Centrelink must be notified.”
Spotless faces maximum penalties of $25,500 to $51,000 per contravention for multiple alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act.
A case management hearing is scheduled for the Federal Court in Perth on 16 March, 2018.
NSW Spotless cleaners sacked; offered jobs in NZ
The legal action comes as four Spotless workers in Wollongong, NSW, claim they were sacked without any redundancy pay and offered jobs in unrelated fields as far away as New Zealand.
According to Fairfax Media, two of the cleaners have worked for Spotless for 14 years. A Spotless spokesperson told Fairfax it was lawful and common practice for the company to terminate employment at the end of a contract.
“Spotless’ view is that it can rely on the [ordinary and customary turnover of labour] exception to redundancy pay when employees lose their jobs due to the end of the client contract,” she said.
“Our business model involves employing staff to service particular commercial contracts and it is the common practice of Spotless to terminate the employment of employees when a contract ends (other than where those employees can be redeployed).”
The spokeswoman said the company tries to redeploy staff where possible.
INCLEAN has contacted Spotless for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.