The Fair Work Ombudsman has issued a warning to the country’s employers that all employees in Australia have the same rights at work, regardless of nationality.
This includes migrants and international students who may not be aware of their rights, or be fearful of making a complaint against an employer.
The warning follows an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman’s office into 16 outlets of fresh juice and salad franchise, Top Juice, across eastern Australia.
Unpaid wages recovered for 18 workers
As a result of the investigation, $32,435 in unpaid wages was recovered on behalf of 18 workers.
“The FWO’s investigation into the Top Juice network was based upon complaints we had received from migrant employees, including international students, who can be particularly vulnerable due to their visa status and may have limited understanding of their workplace rights,” the Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said.
Fair Work Inspectors made surprise visits to nine stores in Sydney, three in Melbourne and one each in Brisbane, Canberra, NSW’s Central Coast and Wollongong, and the Sydney head office late last year following multiple anonymous reports from workers about potential breaches of workplace laws.
Four outlets were franchisor-operated
The franchisor operated four of the outlets visited, with the remaining 12 operated by franchisees. Inspectors interviewed employees, managers and store owners and checked records and payslips.
Fair Work found that seven of the outlets were non-compliant with workplace laws, including five franchisee stores.
Five outlets had underpaid employees and two had breached payslip obligations. The most common breaches found were non-payment of weekend, public holiday and overtime penalty rates and underpayments of the minimum hourly rate.
Businesses put on notice re future breaches
In response to the breaches, inspectors issued five Compliance Notices requiring employers to rectify breaches of the law, resulting in full back-payments. There was also one formal caution and two Infringement Notices for pay slip breaches with penalties totalling $420. These businesses were put on notice that any future breaches will likely lead to enforcement action.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to focus on improving workplace compliance among franchises in the food industry this year,” Parker said.
“While the Top Juice investigation commence prior to the pandemic, the FWO has continued to enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner, as we know COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses in the fast food, restaurant and café industry.”