Restaurant worker’s query triggers back-payments of $22,000

Posted by James Ferre on 6th July 2009

A young Hobart restaurant worker who believed she was being underpaid has triggered a review of the entitlements of more than 220 of her co-workers.While the 22-year-old will be reimbursed almost $70, another 129 staffers will also be back-paid a total of more than $22,000.

The underpayments came to light after the restaurant agreed to do an internal audit following the young woman’s initial complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell said the woman came forward concerned that she was not receiving penalty rates for shift work. Inspectors discovered the woman, a casual employee, was receiving $15.60 an hour, when she should have been getting $17.17 (the adult minimum wage of $14.31 plus a 20 per cent loading).

She was owed $68.59 for the short period she had been employed.

Mr Campbell added that the restaurant owner was upset to learn he had been underpaying the worker, as he had engaged an industrial relations consultant to frame his staff collective agreement.

The employer was asked to review the employment records of all staff or face a formal investigation and potential legal action.

“The employer has co-operated and those calculations are now complete, revealing that 129 other staff at the restaurant have been inadvertently short-changed a total of $22,228.09,” Mr Campbell advised.

These payments are now being made voluntarily by the employer.

Mr Campbell said the case highlighted the importance of young workers concerned about their entitlements to come forward and assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman, and epitomised the need for owners and management to ensure they understand the rights of their employees.

“We take all complaints very seriously and will investigate every matter thoroughly to ensure the workplace rights of employees are upheld,” he said.

Workers and employers can contact the FWO Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fwo.gov.au for assistance.

A new specialist education team has been charged with assisting small to medium sized businesses understand the changes to national workplace relations laws.