15 February 2024

More than a dozen 'cheap eats' in Gungahlin and Queanbeyan put on notice for potential underpayments

| Claire Fenwicke
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anonymous picture inside an eatery kitchen

The Fair Work Ombudsman is concerned that ‘cheap eats’ can mean workers are being ripped off. Photo: Mint Images.

Anonymous reports and intelligence have led the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to inspect about 20 food outlets across Gungahlin and Queanbeyan for suspected underpayments.

The surprise inspections have been held throughout the week at predominately ‘cheap eats’ establishments that the regulator said had been chosen based on indicators of possible non-compliance, history with the FWO, and if they employed vulnerable workers such as visa holders or young people.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said protecting vulnerable workers and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector were priorities.

“Inspectors are on the ground in Queanbeyan and Gungahlin this week speaking with employees and holding employers to account if they are not following workplace laws,” she said.

“We’ve often found that low-cost dining comes at the expense of workers’ lawful wages.

“We won’t hesitate to take enforcement action if needed.”

Inspectors have been speaking with business owners, managers and employees and requesting records.

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They’re mainly looking for signs of unlawfully low base rates of pay, unpaid hours of work, employers failing to pay penalty rates, and a failure to provide payslips.

“This sector engages many young workers and visa holders who can be vulnerable as they are often unaware of their workplace rights or unwilling to speak up,” Ms Booth said.

“We urge workers with concerns about wages and entitlements to reach out to us – including anonymously if preferred.”

The inspections are part of a national program that recently recovered more than $680,000 in unpaid wages for workers in Melbourne’s inner south and inner west food precincts.

Eateries have also been targeted in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Darwin, the Gold Coast, Perth, Newcastle, the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

If you’re an employer or franchisee in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector, you can use the FWO’s pay calculator and Small Business Showcase to ensure you comply with the law.

You can also access the FWO’s Employer Advisory Service for free, tailored advice about pay and conditions.

Businesses have been reminded that visa holders have the same workplace rights as all other employees.

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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Underpayment is theft, no ifs, buts or maybes, outright theft.

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