Port Fairy bakery fined $5,000 for employing underage workers

Port Fairy bakery fined $5,000 for employing underage workers
  • PublishedDecember 7, 2023

In the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, Port Fairy business Cobb’s Bakery was handed the penalty for employing five children during the summers of 2021–2022 and 2022–2023.

The bakery pleaded guilty to 16 charges of employing a child under the age of 15 without a permit and failing to ensure underage workers were supervised by someone with an appropriate Working with Children Check.

The court heard that, in December 2021, the Victorian Wage Inspectorate received a report the bakery was employing children.

An investigation found the business had not been granted permits for underage workers, nor were the children supervised by a person with a Working with Children Check.

Customers sit outside Cobb's Bakery in Port Fairy
Cobb’s Bakery in Port Fairy broke the law by employing children under the age of 15 without having a permit.(ABC South West Vic: Daniel Miles)

The bakery co-operated by engaging a lawyer and providing documents relating to timesheets, employee details, and payslips, the court heard.

At that point, the bakery said it hired children due to worker shortages caused by COVID-19, it had not employed children before, and it was not aware of its employment obligations relating to underage workers.

‘Ignorance is not acceptable’

In December 2022, the Victorian Wage Inspectorate received two more reports that the bakery had continued to employ underage workers. One of these reports was from a former employee while the other was from an anonymous person.

A child employment officer visited the bakery and spoke to the business owner, who provided more details of employment, including rosters. 

Defence lawyer Anton Duc told the court the bakery was a small business and it was inexperienced in the matter of employment law.

Mr Duc said the operator had suffered from health concerns during the time of the offending, which had taken his focus away from the business.

Magistrate Carolyn Howe said this might explain the offending, but it did not take away the business’s obligation to follow the law.

“Your ignorance is not acceptable,” she said.

She said the first round of offending was a “learning period”, but the second instance could not be excused.

“That means a member of the public was so concerned for these children, they felt they should report it,” Magistrate Howe said.

In the past year, Wage Inspectorate Victoria has taken 11 businesses to court over child employment laws, including employing underage workers.

According to Wage Inspectorate Victoria, an employer usually needs a permit to employ someone under the age of 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary.

Underage workers must be supervised by someone who holds a Working with Children Clearance unless the supervisor is exempt.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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