Employers pay millions to shortchanged staff

More than $40 million in unpaid wages was handed back to Australian workers in the past financial year.

Oct 22, 2019, updated Oct 22, 2019
Hospitality accounted for a third of all wage underpayment reports. Photo: AAP/Dan Peled

Hospitality accounted for a third of all wage underpayment reports. Photo: AAP/Dan Peled

The Fair Work Ombudsman recovered the money for 17,718 workers in 2018/19, according to the organisation’s annual report released on Monday.

The workplace watchdog confirmed fast food restaurants and cafes are a key priority, with a series of high-profile wage theft scandals plaguing the industry in recent years.

Hospitality accounted for 36 per cent of all reports, almost tripling the second-ranked sector, which was retail.

Three sushi outlets in regional NSW underpaid 31 employees – including young people and visa holders – more than $70,000, resulting in $383,616 worth of penalties.

Some 54 workers were underpaid $73,347 at a cafe, leading to a $257,000 fine.

A Brisbane-based wireless technology and radio communication business was slapped with a record penalty of $105,000 for failing to comply with an unfair dismissal order.

A Sydney fashion start-up and its director were penalised almost $330,000 for underpaying three workers more than $40,000.

One of the employees was a graphic designer with a university degree who worked two days a week for nearly six months without pay before getting just $1000.

In another case, an online news service covering regional Queensland and its director copped a $264,924 penalty for underpaying young journalists and production staff.

The company also had to back-pay 23 workers more than $300,000 in underpayments.

A company running a 7-Eleven franchise and a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne was penalised $335,664 for underpaying Chinese workers.

Three international students working at the 7-Eleven were made to repay their wages as part of an illegal cashback scheme.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Upwards of $1 million was recovered for more than 2500 workers as part of a targeted blitz on horticultural businesses.

The FWO report noted an increasing intolerance for underpayments to workers.

“A changing workplace environment increases the opportunity for unscrupulous employers to evade detection, particularly where vulnerable workers are employed,” ombusdman Sandra Parker wrote.

“Wage exploitation of migrant workers also remains a complex issue as it crosses employment, migration, corporations, taxation and other laws.”


Want to comment?

Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.

We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.

InDaily has changed the way we receive comments. Go here for an explanation.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.