Pastry chain Twelve Cupcakes fined $119,500 for underpaying staff

Seven of its foreign employees were affected, including one worker who received only about half the salary at times

Home-grown pastry chain Twelve Cupcakes was fined $119,500 yesterday for underpaying seven of its foreign employees, including one worker who received only about half the wages at times.

The company was convicted on Dec 10 last year of 15 counts of underpaying the employees in 2017 and 2018 - an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Fourteen other similar charges were considered during sentencing.

The chain was founded in 2011 by radio DJ Daniel Ong Ming Yu, 45, and former model Jaime Teo Chai-lin, 43.

Five years later, Kolkata-based company Dhunseri Group acquired the pastry chain for $2.5 million.

Although the offences occurred after Ong and Teo sold the business, the now divorced couple are facing similar charges.

On Dec 29 last year, the Singaporeans were each slapped with 24 charges involving eight employees.

They had allegedly allowed the chain to underpay the wages of their foreign employees between 2013 and 2016.

Some of the workers purportedly did not receive any income at all for periods between 2012 and 2013.

Twelve Cupcakes, under its current owner, had underpaid six of the employees their December 2016 to September 2018 wages. These workers were in customer service and sales roles.

One of them was also underpaid the October and November 2018 wages.

The company also paid less than the fixed monthly salary due to a seventh worker - a pastry chef - between January 2017 and September 2018.

Court documents state that all seven were S-Pass holders at the time of the offences.

It is not mentioned if they are still working for the company.

The court heard that while the staff were contracted to receive fixed monthly salaries ranging from $2,200 to $2,600 each, the company in fact credited into each of their bank accounts $1,400 to $2,050.

It later changed tactics, paying the workers their full salaries from May 2018 but telling them that they had to return a portion to the company in cash.

Under current rules, S-Pass holders need to earn at least $2,500 a month as well as have the relevant qualifications and work experience.

The company made full restitution to the employees before court proceedings started. For each offence involving underpaying its foreign employees, a company may be fined up to $10,000. - THE STRAITS TIMES