The Asian Massage shop on Hindley Street in Adelaide.
The Asian Massage shop on Hindley Street in Adelaide.

‘Lazy’ massage boss fined $43k

AN ADELAIDE massage parlour operator who told workplace inspectors he was "too busy and lazy" to keep proper records has been fined $43,200.

Ming Yuan Hu, who owns and operates a number of massage parlours on Hindley Street including Asian Massage, Sakura Massage, No Name Massage and Ma's Massage, was penalised by the South Australian Employment Tribunal in legal action brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

"During the past few years, I did not do the records and other things properly, because I am too busy and lazy," he said in an email to Fair Work inspectors following an unannounced visit in 2016.

"At the beginning, I gave staff pay slips, and late I changed to give them slips when they require. I do not want to make fake data. Because I do not keep records."

Mr Hu was personally fined $7200 and his two companies, Wuyu Pty Ltd and 9th Sky Pty Ltd, were each penalised $18,000 by the Tribunal for contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws.

He had previously been warned by the Ombudsman in 2012 and 2014 of the need to comply with pay slip and record-keeping obligations under the Fair Work Act. Deputy president Michael Ardlie described the contraventions as "serious" and said previous attempts to educate Mr Hu "came to nought".

"Proper record keeping and the provision of pay slips is essential to ensure there is compliance with workplace laws," he said.

"The failure to maintain relevant records frustrated the investigation process. Further, it is not known whether employees of the respondent suffered any specific monetary loss or entitlements in the absence of relevant records."

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said inspectors were often forced to go to great lengths to piece together wage records.

"In the past, our inspectors have translated handwritten diaries, used toll-road dates to reconstruct hours and camped outside businesses to observe when employees come and go, yet sometimes we are still unable to determine whether an employee has been paid correctly in the absence of proper records," she said in a statement.

An amendment to the Fair Work Act last year has now come into effect, reversing the onus of proof when the Ombudsman pursues legal action in relation to underpayments.

"We welcome these changes," Ms James said. "Now, employers who don't meet record-keeping or pay slip obligations and can't give a reasonable excuse will need to disprove allegations in wage claims made in a court.

"If an employee claims they have been underpaid and the employer didn't keep the right records, make those records available, or give them a pay slip, the employer may need to prove that they did pay the employee correctly or gave them the right entitlements."