An audit has revealed a takeaway shop underpaid its staff by $12,000, with some shortchanged by as much as five dollars an hour.
The breach of workplace law was uncovered after a series of inspections by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) at accommodation, hospitality and retail businesses across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The audit was brought on by a series of complaints made by employees to the FWO, regarding the underpayment of hourly rates and penalty rates.
When inspectors audited an undisclosed takeaway shop in the Southern Highlands/Shoalhaven region, the employer was "confused" about award coverage and the applicable hourly rates of pay, according to the FWO.
As a result, the takeaway food business was paying seven casual employees less than the ordinary hourly rates of pay set out by the Fast Food Industry Award 2010.
Three employees were also underpaid weekend penalty rates.
Underpayments ranged from just over one dollar to about five dollars per hour, and amounted to about $12,000. Four of the affected workers were juniors.
Inspectors issued a compliance notice requiring the employer to take corrective action and reimburse all employees.
Fair Work Ombudsman puts businesses on notice
Audits were conducted in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions, Latrobe-Gippsland and Shepparton in Victoria, and Wide Bay and Ipswich in Queensland.
There were 338 audits in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions combined, which had more audits than any other region.
The FWO audited 1385 businesses and found 22 per cent of all audited business failed to pay their employees correctly.
Meanwhile 15 per cent were in breach of non-monetary obligations by not providing proper payslips or keeping proper employment records, and six per cent failed to both pay their employees correctly and meet their non-monetary obligations.
The FWO recovered an average of about $600 per underpaid employee.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator targeted regions based on intelligence.
"Fair Work Inspectors targeted specific regions after employees contacted us for help, many of whom could be vulnerable to workplace exploitation due to their youth or visa status," Ms Parker said.
"It is unacceptable that almost half of the businesses we visited were simply unaware of their obligations under workplace laws and were not paying the lawful minimum hourly wage.
"The FWO will revisit these businesses as part of our ongoing national proactive compliance monitoring programs. Appropriate compliance and enforcement action will be used against employers who continue to breach workplace laws."
Ms Parker said the FWO provided free assistance to employers so ignorance was never an excuse for underpaying staff.
"This outcome is an important reminder to businesses that they must have robust processes in place to ensure they're complying with workplace laws," she said.
"Any employers with concerns should contact us before we conduct a surprise visit to their premises,"
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