As part of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s commitment to improving compliance in the food services industry, an increasing amount of small business and franchise owners have been penalised for compliance breaches, such as underpaying their workers.
Let’s look at some examples of compliance breaches in the last few months:
- A former restaurant operator has been penalised more than $50,000 for his exploitation of an Indian couple who were paid no wages for more than a year’s worth of work.
- A Queensland sushi chain was found underpaying nine Japanese and Korean nationals on 417 visas, more than $123,000 between April 2014-August 2015. This comes after previously being found to be underpaying 14 employees more than $2200 in 2014.
- Brisbane mother-and-son café owners who were found to have deliberately exploited and short-changed five female staff from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea more than $54,000 have each been penalised a total of $196,000.
- Restaurant operators in Sydney were penalised almost $300,000 after underpaying their employees.
- 21 employees were short-changed more than $48,000 at two take away food outlets in Darwin, after it was found the restaurant owner did not check applicable wage regulations prior to paying his staff.
- A Taiwanese visa-holder was underpaid $33,000 in nine months at a restaurant in Box Hill Melbourne. The restaurant owners are facing a maximum penalty ranging from $25,500 – $51,000 per contravention for multiple alleged breaches of workplace laws.
- Frozen yoghurt fast-food chain allegedly short changed young overseas workers from Korea, almost $18,000, with company penalties between $25,500 – $51,000 per contravention.
- A fast food operator faces court for allegedly underpaying two kitchen-hand staff from Taiwan, who speak limited English, were underpaid more than $18,000 between February – August 2015.
Key trends in these compliance breaches:
- Often, restaurant operators or owners have been found to be relying on informal market research to set their wages.
- Culturally and linguistically diverse restaurant and café owners similarly do not understand or are unaware of current workplace laws and minimum requirements, which means there needs to be a greater awareness of their responsibilities as employers.
- Employers and franchise owners are responsible for checking their minimum obligations under workplace laws.
- Foreign workers and visa-holders are the most vulnerable, but are still protected under the Fair Work Act. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James responded to this exploitation, “Visa-holders can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights or are reluctant to see help, so we place a high priority on taking action to ensure their rights are protected…Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia – including visa-holders – and they are not negotiable.”
Minimise Compliance Breaches in Food Services
It’s up to small business owners to do the right thing, and not maximise their return by underpaying employee wages. The Fair Work website contains some fantastic tools and free resources for small business owners in the food services industry to learn about their obligations and mandatory requirements under law.
Want more? If you’re keen to get hands-on compliance training, and to understand things like the Fair Work Act, and what it means for you and your business, contact us to learn more about the Compliance Academy – which offers online training for small business owners, on compliance subject matter. Our compliance training is legally compliant, and written in partnership with leading Australian law firm, Lander & Rogers.
If you’re a small business owner who is wants to ensure compliance is met in the workplace, and to avoid damaging compliance breaches, contact us today, or meet us at the upcoming Work 2.0 Expo and Conference in Sydney, October 24-25 to see how we can help you.