Anonymous tip-offs and employee requests for assistance were cited by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) as being behind the unannounced audits, amid allegations of employee underpayment and improper working conditions, such as not providing work breaks.
Other alleged breaches of workplace laws included failure to provide proper or accurate payslips and withholding worker entitlements on termination of employment.
In total, 17 Top Juice outlets were audited, with locations in the ACT, NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
However, the FWO would not disclose what if anything the audits uncovered, signalling that it “will report on any compliance and enforcement outcomes from this activity in due course”.
Top Juice was approached for comment on the audits.
The company sells a range of fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies as well as healthy food options such as fruit and garden salads.
According to its website, Top Juice has over 70 locations across eastern Australia, primarily within the greater Sydney region. It states that franchises start from $285,000 plus GST.
Hospitality sector remains a hotspot
According to ombudsman Sandra Parker, parts of the hospitality industry — specifically cafés, restaurants and fast food outlets — continue to be a core compliance focus, given ongoing reports of non-compliance with workplace laws, and the Top Juice audits reflect this compliance work.
“Our intelligence indicates that high numbers of migrant workers, international students and young people are employed at Top Juice outlets, who may be unaware of their workplace rights or unable to speak up due to concerns about their visa status,” she said.
“Our inspectors are on the ground to gather further information about Top Juice’s operations and determine if there are any breaches of workplace laws. Our priority is to ensure that all staff are receiving the wages and entitlements they are provided under the law.
“All workers in Australia have the same rights at work and we encourage workers with concerns about their pay to get in touch with the Fair Work Ombudsman.”
Industry-specific tools to educate employers
As part of its efforts to educate employers in the sector about employer obligations and worker entitlements, the FWO has developed new interactive tools for restaurant and café owners as well as for fast food outlet owners.
They incorporate information about minimum pay rates and allowances, leave entitlements and termination considerations under the relevant industry awards.
“Improving workplace law compliance in the hospitality industry is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman,” the regulator said.
“While only accounting for 7 per cent of the labour force, the industry accounted for 17 per cent of all disputes the FWO assisted with and 36 per cent of all anonymous reports we received in the last financial year.”