Coffs Harbour restaurant and fast food employers targeted for underpayments

15 May 2013

10 restaurants and fast food outlets at Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas, including Sawtell, are facing investigation for underpayment of wages to staff, after recent spot-audits by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

21 businesses which employ about 70 workers - many of whom are foreign workers - were audited by staff from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Overseas Workers Team, as a result of information from the community.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said Chinese and Indian restaurants were a particular focus of the audits based on the information received and the enquiries conducted so far indicated the community’s concerns were well founded.

“What we’ve found is preliminary evidence of workers being underpaid, particularly through the use of flat hourly rates for all hours worked, which appear not to cover minimum entitlements for all hours worked, including on weekends and public holidays,” Mr Campbell said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman has a strong focus on vulnerable workers, which includes young people and foreign workers such as students and working holidaymakers who may not be aware of their workplace rights and entitlements.”

In one case, a fast food worker was being paid just $9 per hour instead of the minimum of at least $17.50 that they should have been receiving. This worker is from one of the 10 businesses under further investigation.

Two businesses were handed on the spot fines of $350 and $110 respectively after failing to provide pay slips to workers. Others have been ordered to provide staff and payroll records to the Fair Work Ombudsman for further detailed investigation.

Other breaches identified by the Overseas Workers Team including businesses not including required information on pay slips, not providing pay slips regularly and failing to keep accurate records, with one employer having no records at all.

“It’s a legal requirement for employers to maintain records of staff, hours worked and to provide pay slips with certain information within a day of pay day,” Mr Campbell said.

“While the focus of this campaign was educating employers about their obligations, further investigations will lead to some employers having to repay staff any underpayments identified.

“Employers that don’t meet their obligations to staff can face the risk of legal action and hefty penalties being imposed by the courts.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman will be conducting follow-up enquiries to ensure future compliance with workplace laws. Anyone who believes they are being underpaid should call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or, if an interpreter is required, by calling 13 14 50.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website - www.fairwork.gov.au/industries - contains tailored information for employers and employees in a range of industries, including the fast food and restaurant industries.

Media inquiries:

Penny Rowe, Media & Stakeholder Relations
0457 924 146
media@fwo.gov.au

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