Darwin workers back-paid nearly $400,000

12 September 2022

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $393,453 in wages for 479 underpaid workers after investigating employers in Darwin food precincts.

Fair Work Inspectors targeted 48 businesses across 22 suburbs, including Darwin City, Casuarina and Palmerston City. In concluded investigations, 76 per cent of businesses were non-compliant.

Businesses were selected for surprise inspections based on their risk of breaching workplace laws. At-risk businesses had a history of non-compliance with the FWO, had been the subject of anonymous tip-offs, or employed vulnerable visa holders. Visa holders were found at two-thirds of businesses.

Of the 34 businesses found to be in breach, 31 had underpaid their workers and 10 had failed to meet pay slip and record-keeping requirements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the audits were part of a national program that has targeted food precincts in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, the Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Launceston.

“It is disappointing to find high rates of non-compliance in Darwin’s fast food, restaurant and café sector, something that has been found in many cities nationally. Employers can’t pick and choose which wage laws they follow and those doing the wrong thing are being found out,” Ms Parker said.

“We will continue to prioritise improving compliance in this sector and protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and students who are over-represented. Employers can use our free tools and resources if they need assistance meeting their obligations. Workers with concerns about their pay or entitlement should come forward for help.”

The most common breaches found were the failure to pay penalty rates or casual loading (28 businesses), followed by underpayment of the minimum hourly rate of pay (13 businesses) and the failure to pay correct overtime allowances (13 businesses).

In total, Darwin businesses back-paid 479 employees, with the largest recovery being $94,687 from one business for 15 casual and part-time employees who had been underpaid their minimum wages and weekend penalties.

In response to the breaches, the FWO issued a Compliance Notice each to 32 businesses, recovering $390,177 for 465 workers. There were 10 Infringement Notices issued for pay slip and record-keeping breaches, resulting in $12,792 in fines paid. Three businesses remain under investigation.

Non-compliant businesses were told that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The FWO has interactive tools to help employers and employees in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, as well as for any franchisees. This includes information on the new annualised wage arrangements rules under the Restaurant Award and Hospitality Award. Employers can also use the FWO’s pay calculator and Small Business Showcase.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders with work rights can ask for our help without fear of visa cancellation. Details are available at our webpage for visa holder workers.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au.

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Media inquiries:

Claire, 0418 825 074, media@fwo.gov.au