Back-pay for almost 250 restaurant staff

14 July 2016

The operator of a dozen restaurants across Melbourne has been required to back-pay almost 250 workers after inadvertently underpaying their Christmas Day entitlements.

The 246 employees have been reimbursed a total of $21,700 following intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The largest individual underpayment was $181.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the restaurant operator mistakenly believed it could declare Christmas Day a “shut-down”, rather than paying its permanent employees for a day off for a public holiday.

The employees are employed at restaurants located in Melbourne’s CBD, Ringwood, Dandenong, Fountain Gate, Werribee, Glen Waverley, Malvern East, Wantirna South, Preston and Maribyrnong.

Ms James says Fair Work inspectors believe the employer made a genuine error and it has therefore avoided enforcement action after co-operating with the Agency.

However, she says the case study highlights the importance of employers taking the necessary steps to ensure they understand the wage rates applicable to their employees, including penalty rates.

"It's important that employers who are unsure about their obligations contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice and information," Ms James said.

"Our website can assist employers and workers alike understand and comply with their rights and obligations so there aren't any issues arising around public holidays."

Information available in the Public holidays section  includes an overview of the workplace laws that apply on public holidays, including what employers need to pay and what employees are entitled to.

Employees and employers can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s free online tools and resources to check entitlements specific to their workplace.

The Agency’s Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) provides advice about pay, shift, leave and redundancy entitlements. Visit www.calculate.fairwork.gov.au to learn more.

Ms James says most underpayments are inadvertent and the result of employers failing to check their minimum obligations under workplace laws.

"When we find errors, our preference is to educate employers about their obligations and assist them to put processes in place to ensure the mistakes are not repeated," she said.

In 2014-15, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $5.9 million in underpaid wages and entitlements for 4070 employees in Melbourne.

Ms James encouraged employers who had any uncertainty about whether their workplace practices were appropriate to visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Infoline 13 13 94 for advice. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.

Media inquiries:

Annie Lawson, Media Adviser
Mobile: 0466 522 004
annie.lawson@fwo.gov.au

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