Surprise inspection of food outlets underway to check migrant workers getting the right pay

Fair Work Inspectors are speaking with business owners, managers and employees on the ground, and requesting records.

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

About 50 businesses face investigations across suburbs including Broadmeadow, Cameron Park, Hamilton, Islington, Maryland, Mayfield and Merewether among others. 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.

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

“Inspectors in Newcastle are knocking on doors this week, and they will speak with employees and hold employers to account if they are not meeting their obligations.”

“Employers should be aware – we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where appropriate,” Ms Parker said.

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

“We encourage employers to familarise themselves with our free tools and resources to ensure they’re meeting their obligations,” Ms Parker said.

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Inspectors are on alert for issues including insufficient hourly rates; late or non-payment of wages; payslips not being provided or being inaccurate; deliberately falsified time and wage records; and the non-payment of overtime or time off in lieu.

The audits are part of a national program that has previously targeted eateries in SydneyMelbourne, BrisbaneAdelaideHobartLauncestonDarwin, the Gold Coast and most recently Perth.

“Unfortunately, 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 last year the FWO secured court-ordered penalties of $1.66 million from litigations and recovered more than $13 million for underpaid employees.

Migrant workers were involved in 26 per cent of the FWO’s litigations.

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