Surprise check at restaurants for underpayments to migrant and international student workers

Migrant workers were involved in 26 per cent of all the FWO’s litigations initiated in 2021-22.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise inspections of food outlets in Perth this week to check workers are getting the right pay and entitlements.

About 50 businesses face investigations across Belmont, Victoria Park and East Victoria Park. Fair Work Inspectors are speaking with business owners, managers and employees on the ground, and requesting records.

The regulator is acting after receiving intelligence from a range of sources, including anonymous reports, indicating potential underpayments of employees in the food precincts in the area. Most of the eateries are cheap eats venues.

- Advertisement -

Businesses were targeted for investigation based on indicators of non-compliance, such as tip-offs to the FWO, or if they employed vulnerable workers such as visa holders or students, or both.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said protecting vulnerable workers and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector were ongoing priorities.

“Inspectors in Perth are on the ground this week, and we will hold employers to account if they are not meeting their obligations, including by taking enforcement action where appropriate,” Ms Parker said.

“These inspections are part of a national food precincts program where we’ve often found a low cost of dining comes at the expense of workers’ lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.

“Visa holder workers and students can be especially at risk of exploitation as they’re often unfamiliar with Australian workplace laws or reluctant to ask questions about their pay or other concerns with their employer.”

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

- Advertisement -

The audits are part of a national program that has previously targeted eateries in Perth’s James Street and Francis Street in Northbridge, Melbourne, BrisbaneSydneyAdelaideHobartLauncestonDarwin and the Gold Coast.

“Our inspections have uncovered high levels of non-compliance nationwide. Any workers with concerns should contact the FWO directly for free assistance,” Ms Parker said.

In the fast food, restaurant and café sector, the FWO secured court-ordered penalties of $1.66 million from litigations and recovered more than $13 million for underpaid employees in 2021-22.

Migrant workers were involved in 26 per cent of all the FWO’s litigations initiated that year.

The FWO has interactive tools to help employers and employees in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, and for any franchisees. Employers can also use FWO’s pay calculator and Small Business Showcase. We also have resources for visa holder workers.