Popular food precincts hit with unannounced workplace audits

The Fair Work Ombudsman has conducted a series of surprise visits to cafes, restaurants and bars in the food precincts of Adelaide and Perth, checking businesses’ compliance with workplace laws.

Over the past two days, Fair Work Inspectors have targeted businesses in Perth’s Northbridge area as well as popular strips in and around the Adelaide CBD, including Rundle Street, Gouger and Grote Streets, North Adelaide and The Parade in Norwood.

In total, approximately 50 businesses received spot-checks, with inspectors checking workplace records and speaking to workers, managers and businesses owners.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says that the activities were launched in response to intelligence suggesting potential non-compliance among businesses in these areas, and follow similar audits targeting eateries in food precincts in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

The intelligence pointed to a culture of workers being paid flat rates below the minimum wage and a prevalence of cash‑in-hand payments, indicating a potential lack of records being kept.

“These precincts have a high density of hospitality businesses, which employ large numbers of young workers and visa-holders,” Ms James says.

“We know that these cohorts may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace due to a lack of experience and a limited awareness of workplace rights.

“In addition, these businesses are operating in a highly competitive and price-driven market, increasing the potential for some businesses to adopt unlawful practices such as cost-cutting through underpaying wages to obtain a competitive advantage.”

Ms James says that while the visits served as a valuable opportunity for inspectors to provide advice and assistance to employers to help them comply with their obligations, businesses should also be aware that serious breaches can attract enforcement action.

“These spot-checks will uncover any instances of non-compliance in these precincts and help to create a level playing field for businesses by ensuring employers are aware of and fully abide by their workplace obligations,” Ms James says.

The hospitality industry is a major focus for the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“Last financial year, the hospitality industry accounted for the highest number of formal requests for assistance and highest number of anonymous reports received by my agency,” Ms James says.

“I continue to urge workers to speak out if they have any concerns about their employment and need some assistance or advice.