The Fair Work Ombudsman has revealed that it identified more than $330,000 in wage underpayments following surprise audits of businesses in three regional locations.
A total of 489 businesses were visited by inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in Albury-Wodonga, Wollongong and Ballarat, the regulator revealed on Thursday (13 June).
It said the audits had identified underpayments had impacted 725 employees, totalling $331,386.
Among those businesses to have been audited were retail and hospitality operators, including pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés and takeaway food outlets.
“Nearly half of the businesses (47 per cent) audited across the regions were not compliant with Australian workplace laws,” the FWO said.
“The most common breach identified was businesses not paying their staff correctly, either by underpaying the minimum hourly wage or not paying correct penalty rates. Other breaches included businesses not providing staff with proper payslips and failing to comply with record-keeping requirements.”
Compliance rates were markedly different across the three locations. While 59 per cent of businesses in Albury-Wodonga, on the NSW/Victorian border, were fully compliant with workplace rules, the same could be said for little more than a third (38 per cent) in Wollongong in NSW. In Ballarat, 54 per cent of businesses were found to be fully compliant.
As a result of the audits, 37 on-the-spot fines and 35 cautions were issued as well as nine compliance notices. The amounts that businesses were required to backpay staff ranged from just $7.26 up to $40,434.69.
“Like many workers in the hospitality industry, young workers in these regions were potentially vulnerable due to their age, visa status and reliance on local jobs to support themselves,” Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.
“Australia’s minimum pay rates are not negotiable, and employers in the fast food, restaurant and café sector need to actively check that they are paying their staff correctly before we visit their business.
“We are committed to improving workplace compliance in the hospitality industry, and we have a range of free tools to help both employers and workers.”
These were the latest in a series of audits being conducted nationwide by the FWO. Last month, it decried “widespread non-compliance” in visits to 1,385 businesses across NSW, Victoria and Queensland, with identified underpayments totalling more than $580,000.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.