Queanbeyan and Gungahlin eateries checked for underpayments

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise inspections of food outlets in Canberra’s north and nearby Queanbeyan in NSW this week to check workers are getting the right pay and entitlements.

About 20 businesses face investigations across Gungahlin and Queanbeyan, with Fair Work Inspectors 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.

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

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said protecting vulnerable workers and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector were priorities for the regulator.

“Inspectors are on the ground in Queanbeyan and Gungahlin this week speaking with employees and holding employers to account if they are not following workplace laws. We won’t hesitate to take enforcement action if needed,” Ms Booth said.

“These inspections are part of a national food precincts program where we’ve often found that low-cost dining comes at the expense of workers’ lawful wages.”

“This sector engages many young workers and visa holders who can be vulnerable, as they are often unaware of their workplace rights or unwilling to speak up,” Ms Booth said.

“We urge workers with concerns about wages and entitlements to reach out to us – including anonymously if preferred. Employers should access our free tools and resources to ensure they’re meeting their obligations, or contact the FWO directly for free advice.”

Inspectors are on alert for unlawfully low base rates of pay; unpaid hours of work; employers failing to pay penalty rates; and the failure to provide payslips, among other concerns.

The inspections are part of a national program that has recently recovered more than $680,000 in unpaid wages for workers in Melbourne’s inner south and inner west food precincts. It has previously targeted eateries in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Darwin, the Gold Coast, Perth, Newcastle, the Sunshine Coast and, most recently, Brisbane.

The FWO has interactive tools to help employers and employees in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, and for any franchisees

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