More than $684,000 recovered for 1,004 underpaid workers

In the 82 completed investigations, 86 per cent of businesses had breached workplace laws.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $684,543 in wages for 1,004 underpaid workers after investigating employers in Melbourne’s food precincts.

Fair Work Inspectors investigated 84 businesses across Albert Park, Balaclava, Brighton, Elwood, Port Melbourne, Prahran, South Yarra, St Kilda and Windsor in the inner south; and Footscray, West Footscray, Seddon, Yarraville, Newport and Williamstown in the inner west.

In the 82 completed investigations, 86 per cent of businesses had breached workplace laws. Businesses were selected for surprise inspections based on their risk of breaching workplace laws. At-risk businesses had a history of non-compliance with the FWO, had been the subject of anonymous tip-offs, or employed vulnerable visa holders.

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Of the 71 businesses found to be in breach, 69 had underpaid their workers and 24 had failed to meet pay slip or record-keeping requirements.

The most common breaches found were underpaying penalty rates (52 businesses), followed by failing to pay minimum wages including casual loading (51 businesses) and record-keeping issues (17 businesses).

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said the inspections were part of a national program that has targeted food precincts in Melbourne’s Degraves Street and Hardware Lane, BrisbaneSydney, the Gold CoastAdelaideDarwinHobartLauncestonPerth and, most recently, Newcastle.

“Uncovering high levels of non-compliance in Melbourne’s fast food, restaurant and café sector, as the FWO has nationwide, is disappointing. Employers can’t pick and choose which wage laws they follow and those doing the wrong thing are being found out,” Ms Hannah said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to prioritise improving compliance in this sector, which we know employs many visa holders and young workers who can be vulnerable.”

“Employers can use our free tools and resources if they need assistance meeting their obligations. Workers with concerns about their pay or entitlement should come forward for help,” Ms Hannah said.

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The largest recovery from one business was $83,272 for 170 employees in St Kilda.

In response to the breaches, the FWO issued a Compliance Notice each to 68 businesses, recovering $684,543 for 1,004 workers. There were 32 Infringement Notices issued for pay slip and record-keeping breaches, resulting in $54,721 in fines paid.

The regulator continues to investigate two businesses. Non-compliant businesses were told that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.