Workplace ombudsman scrutinising WA fast-food outlets as part of nationwide campaign

Posted by James Ferre on 30th March 2009

The Federal Workplace Ombudsman is concerned that large numbers of young people and migrant workers might be being short-changed by fast-food employers.
“The preliminary findings of random audits of the fast-food sector suggest there is a lack of awareness among employers of their workplace obligations,” State Director Leigh Quealy said.

Mr Quealy advised that almost half of the 120 employers scrutinised by his inspectors so far were failing to comply with workplace laws.

The Western Australian office is asking more than 230 take-away outlets to open their books as part of a nation-wide food services campaign.

Around the country, inspectors are randomly auditing up to 1000 businesses, including bakeries, butchers, dairy producers, coffee shops, grocers, smallgoods stores and seafood and poultry suppliers.

Mr Quealy said that, of employers audited in WA so far, 48 per cent had breaches – mostly minor – but many relating to underpayment of staff.

As a first step, businesses found to be underpaying workers would be asked to rectify the matter voluntarily. However, he signalled that legal action would be considered against those found to be blatantly abusing the law.

Mr Quealy urged employers unsure of their obligations to seek appropriate advice. “We are here to help employers understand their obligations where we find there is a problem,” he stated.

Maximum penalties of $33,000 apply to breaches of the Workplace Relations Act.