Sushi restaurant operator hit with $80,000 in penalties over underpayments

Sushi roll japanese food in restaurant. California Sushi roll set with salmon, vegetables, flying fish roe. Sushi with chopsticks. Japan restaurant menu cuisine

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed $80,000 in penalties against the operator of a sushi restaurant on Bribie Island, north of Brisbane, after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation alleged non-compliance with its order that the business calculate and back-pay two visa workers’ outstanding entitlements.

SMH Food Pty Ltd, trading as Shinsen Sushi restaurant, received a fine of $27,000 in for failure to comply with each of the two Compliance Notices requiring it to backpay the workers, and a further $26,000 for not issuing payslips to those workers.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face substantial court-imposed penalties on top of back-pay to workers.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements and that employers are held to account,” Parker said.

“Matters that involve the alleged underpayment of visa holders are serious, as they may be vulnerable in the workplace. All workers have the same rights in Australia regardless of visa status and anyone with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman launched an investigation into the company after receiving requests for assistance from two South Korean 417 working holiday visa holders who were employed full-time at the restaurant between October 2019 and August 2020.

A Fair Work Inspector issued two Compliance Notices in January 2021 on the back of the belief that the workers had not been paid entitlements owed under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. The inspector alleged that the workers were underpaid minimum rates for ordinary hours, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, overtime rates and annual leave entitlements.