An Indian restaurant on the Gold Coast has agreed to pay back 22 workers more than $54,000 in underpayments in return for avoiding legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Saffron Indian Gourmet restaurant, located at Broadbeach, and its Director, Sridhar Penumechchu, entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the workplace watchdog after they were caught underpaying their staff between January and May last year.
The details of the underpayments
Fair Work Inspectors began investigating the restaurant after receiving an anonymous complaint from one of the workers.
They found 22 workers were paid flat hourly rates between $15 and $18.50 – which meant they were underpaid ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings, and weekend and public holiday penalty rates they were entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award.
Underpayments of individual staff members ranged from $143 to $9,457.
The Enforceable Undertaking
Under the terms of the Enforceable Undertaking, Saffron Indian Gourmet has commenced rectifying all underpayments through a payment plan.
The restaurant must also engage an external accountant to undertake two audits of the pay and conditions of all employees, in addition to organising workplace relations training for all managers, payroll and human resource staff.
Finally Saffron Indian Gourmet has agreed to make a $25,000 donation to the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre.
Enforceable Undertakings are a joke
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Fair Work Claims, was highly critical of Enforceable Undertakings.
“These cosy arrangements are an absolute joke, and show the workplace watch dog is all bark and no bite,” he said.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman is supposed to be the regulator responsible for enforcing wage theft legislation, but instead it seems to be spending all of its time and money on educating recalcitrant employers, instead of taking them to court.
“It’s lazy, and it sends the message to greedy bosses that it’s okay to steal from their workers because if they’re ever caught by Fair Work inspectors, all they have to do is pay back what they owe and promise not to do it again, and they get let off the hook.
“It’s time wage theft was made a criminal offence – just like all other forms of wage theft – because without serious consequences, employers have no reason not to steal from their workers.”
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