FWO inspectors audit Darwin eateries

9 September 2021

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise visits to restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in popular food precincts around Darwin this week to check compliance with workplace laws.

Across 22 suburbs, including Darwin City, Casuarina and Palmerston City, around 50 businesses face audits, with Fair Work Inspectors speaking with business owners, managers and employees on the ground to make sure that workers are being paid correctly.

The regulator is acting after receiving intelligence from a range of sources, including anonymous reports indicating potential underpayments by employers in the areas.

The businesses were selected by assessing eateries in centralised postcodes for indicators of non-compliance, such as workers making enquiries to the FWO, with particular consideration given to food outlets currently sponsoring visa holders.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the audits’ focus on employers that have sponsored visa holders was because these workers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

“We know visa holders can be vulnerable if they lack knowledge of Australian workplace laws or have limited English skills. Heavily reliant on their employer, they may be reluctant to ask questions about their workplace rights or raise issues,” Ms Parker said.

“In this week’s audits, inspectors are assessing employment records for compliance with workplace laws. We will hold employers to account if they are not meeting their lawful obligations and take enforcement action where appropriate. We will also educate employers about their responsibilities under the law and workers about their rights.”

Ms Parker said protecting vulnerable workers such as students and visa holders, and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector were ongoing priorities for the agency.

“Our targeted activities across various cities uncovered high levels of non-compliance around Australia. Unfortunately, the true cost of cheap eats is workers’ lawful entitlements. We urge any workers with concerns to contact the FWO directly for free advice and assistance,” Ms Parker said.

The unannounced audits are part of a national program that has targeted eateries in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, and most recently the Gold Coast.

Food precinct audits in Melbourne and Brisbane recovered more than $500,000 in unpaid wages for 555 workers. The rate of non-compliance was 88 per cent in Brisbane and 84 per cent in Melbourne.

A company found in breach of workplace laws can face a court-ordered penalty of up to $33,300 for a Compliance Notice breach and up to $66,600 for a record-keeping breach. Individuals can be penalised up to $6,660 for a Compliance Notice breach and up to $13,320 for a record-keeping breach.

Fast food, restaurant and café matters accounted for 50 per cent of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new litigations in 2019-20. The FWO secured court ordered penalties of $1,877,162 from 13 litigation decisions in this sector. Visa holder workers were involved in 44 per cent of all litigations in that year.

The FWO has targeted interactive tools to help employers and employees in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, and for any franchisees. Employers can also use FWO's pay calculator and Small Business Showcase. We also have targeted resources for visa holder workers. Know a workplace not doing the right thing but don’t want to get involved? Report it anonymously – in your language.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

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