The most common breaches related to underpayment of workers base hourly rates
Fair Work inspectors have discovered widespread breaches of workplace laws in Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney; Victoria Street, Richmond, Melbourne; and Fortitude Valley in Brisbane after interviewing staff and checking employment records.
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) audit of the three areas has recovered $471,904 for 616 workers after it found that 72% of the 243 businesses had breached workplace laws. The most common breaches involved underpayment of workers base hourly rates (38%), with inadequate or non-existent employment records and pay slips being another widespread breach (28%).
Moreover, other common issues included non-provision of meal breaks, incorrectly classified workers and non-payment of overtime. The FWO began the campaign as part of its ongoing program of intelligence-led audits into the hospitality industry.
Indeed, one in ten disputes resolved by the FWO last financial year involved a restaurant, café or takeaway food outlet, and nearly one third of the most serious cases that the FWO took to court involved this sector. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it is “pleasing” to see the Food Precincts Campaign has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being returned to workers, and sent a “definitive message” to those employers who are breaking the law. “While disappointed by the high levels of non-compliance uncovered in the sample of businesses audited, we are not surprised,” said James.
“Our experience is that addressing entrenched, cultural non-compliance requires a combination of regulatory intervention, public awareness and industry leadership.
“We have demonstrated this in sectors such as trolley collection and cleaning as well as within service networks and supply chains such as 7-Eleven and Baiada Poultry.” James said the FWO is engaging with leaders in this sector, asking them to step up and work with the FWO to develop an integrated approach to turning around this sector.
“This is an industry-wide problem and it needs an industry-wide response. There are over 50,000 cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets in Australia and the FWO cannot fix this one café at a time.” The non-compliance rate was highest at Victoria Street, with breaches identified at 81% (83 of 103) of businesses – compared to 70% (47 of 67) at Glebe Point Road and 60% (44 of 73) at Fortitude Valley.
The FWO implemented a range of compliance and enforcement tools against the non-compliant businesses during the audit campaign, such as:
- commencing legal action against the Meatball & Wine Bar Pty Ltd for allegedly underpaying 26 employees at its Richmond, Melbourne CBD and Collingwood restaurants;
- issuing 71 infringement notices (on-the-spot fines);
- issuing 63 formal cautions; and
- issuing seven compliance notices.