Chinese workers underpaid “hundreds of thousands”

by Cameron Edmond21 Jan 2014

A 457 Visa-holder who worked as a cook at a take-away noodle bar in Dubbo was underpaid $189,225, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has alleged.

The company responsible, W.X.Z. Enterprises and their operating managers Xin Tai Xu and Xin Chun Xu, have also been accused of underpaying two workers at a Bathurst noodle bar $129,314 and $125,605. A female cook in Bundaberg was underpaid $92,086, while two cooks at an Orange-based shop were underpaid $88,034 and $18,047.

This brings the total underpayments to $642,311.

The employees were paid a flat weekly wage as low as $530, despite working seven days a week and often over 60 hours a week. Inspectors from the FWO discovered these underpayments after investigating complaints from the employees, also uncovering record-keeping and pay slip contraventions.

The FWO has commenced legal proceedings against the organisation and the aforementioned managers, with W.X.Z. Enterprises facing penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention and the managers facing up to $10,200 per contravention. Thus far, the largest penalty awarded by the Courts in a matter initiated by the FWO is $343,860.

Key HR takeaways
HC  has reported extensively on the continual underpayment cases popping up across Australia. Employers must be sure to:

  • Understand your rights and obligations to different types of workers – casual employees aren’t entitled to be paid for a public holiday or day off, but part-time and full-time employees are. Normally, this is based on the rate of pay for the hours they would have ordinarily worked.

  • Different industries and positions may be entitled to higher pay rates (penalty rates) than normal. The Fair Work Ombudsman provides an online tool for calculating this.

  • Different public holidays apply in different areas. For instance, Borroloola Show Day in the Northern Territory, and part-day public holidays in South Australia. If you are managing employees in a state or territory you are unfamiliar with, make sure to familiarise yourself with the holidays in that area.

  • Of great importance is ensuring any foreign workers are fully aware of their rights as an employee. Mistakes can occur, and if the employee is able to communicate their concern before further consequences, these matters can perhaps be remedied internally.

  • Employers and employees alike who are from non-English speaking backgrounds can be connected to a free interpreter service from the FWO by calling 13 14 50. Additionally, information about workplace laws is translated into 27 different languages at

The underpayment epidemic in Australia continues. What can be done to stamp it out once and for all?


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