$50,000 back-paid to workers of a national fast-food franchise after watchdog’s investigation

Posted by Editorial on 6th April 2009

A fast-food franchise in Perth’s CBD has been forced to back-pay many of its teenage workers $50,000 following investigations by the Federal Workplace Ombudsman.

Workplace Ombudsman Western Australian Director Leigh Quealy advised that, after checking employment records, inspectors discovered 33 young staff had been short-changed an average $1500 each.

He says his office is now considering legal action against the franchise, part of a national take-away food chain.

Mr Quealy revealed the underpayments were among a number of significant discoveries by inspectors, including:

• A bakery in Perth’s southern suburbs underpaid 13 junior apprentices and retail sales staff more than $24,000 – an average of $1800 each. The employer, which recently bought the business, was not paying the correct rates for overtime, early-morning and weekend shifts.

• A food processing company in Bunbury which underpaid 145 of its employees $41,800 – an average of $290 each after receiving incorrect advice.

Mr Quealy said the results showed the importance of any worker who felt they were being underpaid contacting the Workplace Ombudsman to query their entitlements.”It is important that workers in any business, large or small, realise there is an Agency they can turn to, and they can do it confidentially if necessary,” he said.

In 2007-08, the WA office of the Workplace Ombudsman recouped $2.78 million for 1877 workers who had been underpaid.

So far this financial year, Mr Quealy says the office has recovered $1.584 million for 1308 employees, with most claims coming from the retail and hospitality sectors.