FWO inspectors audit Brisbane eateries

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise inspections of restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in key food precincts in Brisbane this week to check workers are getting the right pay and entitlements.

About 90 businesses face audits across a range of suburbs, including Brisbane CBD, South Brisbane, Fortitude Valley and Sunnybank, with Fair Work Inspectors speaking with business owners, managers and employees on the ground to make sure that workers are being paid correctly.

The regulator is acting after receiving intelligence from a range of sources, including anonymous reports indicating potential underpayments by employers in the areas.

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.

Inspectors are on alert for unlawfully low flat rates, unpaid hours of work, unpaid penalty rates, late payments, false or incorrect records and failures to provide pay slips, among other breaches.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and students and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café 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. We know they’re often reluctant to ask questions about their pay or entitlements or raise concerns with their employer,” Ms Parker said.

“Inspectors in Brisbane are checking employment records for compliance with workplace laws. 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 a national program that has previously targeted eateries in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Darwin, the Gold Coast and most recently 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,” Ms 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 $6,660 for a Compliance Notice breach and up to $13,320 for a record-keeping breach.

Fast food, restaurant and café matters accounted for 36 per cent of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new litigations in 2020-21. The FWO 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.

The FWO has targeted interactive tools to help employers and employees in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, and for any franchisees

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