The Fair Work Ombudsman last week conducted surprise inspections of restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in key food precincts in Brisbane to check that workers are getting the right pay and entitlements.
About 90 businesses were audited across different Brisbane suburbs with Fair Work Inspectors also interviewed business owners, managers and employees on the ground to make sure that workers are being paid correctly, records are accurate, and that payslips are provided, among other things being looked upon by the inspectors.
Businesses were selected for investigation based on indicators of non-compliance, such as tip-offs to the FWO, or if they employed vulnerable workers including visa holders and students.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and students and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector were ongoing priorities for the agency.
“Visa workers and students can be especially vulnerable and at risk of exploitation as they’re often unfamiliar with Australian workplace laws,” Parker said. “We know they’re often reluctant to ask questions about their pay or entitlements or raise concerns with their employer.
“Inspectors in Brisbane are checking employment records for compliance with workplace laws,” Parker added, in advance of the action. “We will hold employers to account if they are not meeting their obligations and take enforcement action where appropriate. We will also educate employers on their legal responsibilities and workers about their rights.”
The audits are part of FWO’s national program that has previously targeted eateries in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Darwin, the Gold Coast, and Launceston.
“Our targeted audits have uncovered high levels of non-compliance nationwide. Any workers with concerns should contact the FWO directly for free advice and assistance,” Parker said.
A company found in breach of workplace laws can face a court-ordered penalty of up to $33,300 for a Compliance Notice breach and up to $66,600 for a record-keeping breach. Individuals can be penalised up to $6660 for a Compliance Notice breach and up to $13,320 for a record-keeping breach.
Fast food, restaurant and cafe matters accounted for 36 per cent of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s litigations in 2020-21 and the FWO has already secured court-ordered penalties of $1,841,347 from litigation decisions in this sector. Visa holder workers were involved in 32 per cent of all litigations that year.