FWO recovers over $200,000 in wages for Gold Coast workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $215,707 in wages for 446 underpaid workers as a result of the Ombudsman’s targeted auditing of Gold Coast’s “cheap eats” food precincts.

Fair Work Inspectors found that 88 per cent of the 50 businesses audited during the campaign failed to comply with workplace laws. Businesses were selected for audit based on their risk of non-compliance with workplace laws.

In the course of the campaign, inspectors found that 35 of the businesses that employed migrant workers could be vulnerable to exploitation. They also uncovered a history of non-compliance with the FWO or being the subject of anonymous tip-offs to the regulator among some of the businesses audited as well.

Of the 44 non-complying businesses, 34 underpaid their workers and 18 failed to meet payslip and record-keeping requirements. Other common breaches committed by the businesses included failures to pay penalty rates (22 businesses), and failure to pay minimum rates for ordinary hours (eight businesses).

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the unannounced audits were part of a national program that has targeted cheap eat precincts in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

“Our intelligence-led activities have audited food precincts around the country because they commonly employ a high proportion of young and migrant workers who can be vulnerable to exploitation,” Parker said. “Protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurants and cafés sector are ongoing priorities for the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“We expect all employers to comply with workplace obligations and to use our range of free tools and resources if they need help. Any workers with concerns about their wages should contact us,” Parker added.

As a result of the investigation, the FWO issued 35 Compliance Notices to 31 businesses, recovering the $215,707. There were also 12 Infringement Notices issued, resulting in $9282 in fines paid. Meanwhile, individually, the back payments ranged from $153 for two workers to $20,333 for two workers.

The non-compliant businesses were also advised that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.