FWO recovers unpaid wages for 200+ sandwich franchise workers

Sandwich bread tomato, lettuce and yellow cheese

A Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into the Sandwich Chefs deli carvery franchise has resulted in 214 workers receiving a total of $182,596 in unpaid wages.

The Ombudsman’s investigators looked into 39 franchisee businesses in Victoria (18), NSW (eight), South Australia (seven) and Queensland (six) after proactive audits revealed significant underpayments and record-keeping breaches at two Geelong Sandwich Chefs outlets.

The investigation involved interviews with employees, managers and employers alongside detailed checks of records and payslips.

The investigation revealed that that 32 of the 39 outlets had failed in one way or another to comply with workplace laws. The transgressions included underpayment of the minimum hourly pay rate (16 businesses), failure to pay weekend penalty rates (10 businesses) and failure to make and keep employee records (10 businesses).

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah expressed dismay at the high percentage of outlets involved in non-compliant activity and the level of the breaches.

“Sandwich Chefs unfortunately is another franchise in the fast food, restaurant and caf├ęs sector where we have found high rates of non-compliance spreading across multiple states,” Hannah said. “Employers can’t pick and choose which wage laws they follow and those doing the wrong thing are being found out.

“Improving compliance among franchises and in the food sector are ongoing priorities for the Fair Work Ombudsman, as is protecting vulnerable young workers who can often be the ones cooking and serving the meals,” Hannah added. “We expect all employers in franchise networks to meet their obligations, and there has never been more free tools and resources available to help them get it right. Any workers with wages concerns should also contact us.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman has issued 32 Compliance Notices to 26 businesses as a result of the investigation. They also issued 18 Infringement Notices for record-keeping and pay-slips breaches, collecting in $15,330 in fines, three contravention letters and two formal cautions. The FWO put the non-compliant businesses on notice that any future breaches will result in higher-level enforcement action.