Mantle Group HR Manager Referred to Police

Following the Hot Wok story from our January article involving Mantle Group Hospitality, the company’s HR chief was referred to the police by the Fair Work Commission for criminal prosecution because of allegedly providing deliberately false or misleading information. The alleged misleading information was regarding an agreement that allowed the employer to ask their employees to work voluntary additional hours without penalty rates.

Mantle Group has been accused by the FWC of “deliberate manipulation of the statutory process of making enterprise agreements” after the commission overturned the approval of the Group’s Hot Work enterprise agreement.  

The Hot Wok Food Makers Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Mantle Group, moved workers from a zombie agreement, that allowed the company to avoid paying penalty rates to its workers for 22 years. This had won the approval from Deputy President Amanda Mansini. However, the bench found that the deal had not been genuinely agreed by employees covered by it due the HR manager’s “false or misleading” employer declaration when the agreement was approved. The alleged misleading declaration was weighed upon heavily, as the commission then stated that “the process for considering applications for the approval of enterprise agreements would break down entirely if, in every case, the Commission was required to ‘go behind’ and investigate for itself the truth of the matters asserted in such declarations”, justifying the reliance of Deputy President Mansini on the declaration of the HR manager.

Employers should take heed that knowingly providing false or misleading information or documents in support of an enterprise agreement application is a criminal offense under section 137.1 and 137.2 of the Criminal Code. The FWC bench stated that the Hot Wok’s “selection of four relatively high-paid managers to ‘make’ the Hot Wok agreement was part of a deliberate manipulation of the statutory process for making enterprise agreements”. Employers should be cautious when selecting representatives to negotiate enterprise agreements and ensure that the agreement is genuinely agreed upon by the employees that it covers. Failure to do so may result in the approval of the agreement being overturned and possible criminal prosecution for those who provide false or misleading information in support of the agreement.

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