A business where management claimed to have “no idea” about the laws regarding minimum wages, has been ordered to pay $46,000. This was announced by the Fair Work Ombudsman, regarding the owner of a fast-food restaurant located in Melbourne. The operator had been paying its staff below the national award rate, and told officials that they did not know about minimum wages.
A food outlet, called Mr Kitchen Box Hill, was the business in question. Between December of 2013, and January of 2015, 18 employees were paid less than they were legally entitled to. The owner and the employees had agreed to a flat rate of $17 per hour, which is $1.52 an hour less than the award rate for the fast food industry. Of the individual employees, the biggest two underpayments were $12,071 and $13,584. Chinese nationals operate the company, via DM&G Pty Ltd. It is located in the shopping centre in Box Hill.
Natalie James, the Fair Work Ombudsman, stated that the Fair Work officials believed the underpayments to be an honest mistake. They did not find any reason to believe that the operator had been paying their staff too little on purpose. They genuinely seemed to be ignorant of the laws. The limited company has complied with officials, and expressed a desire to follow the workplace regulations closely in the future. The company has signed an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman, which is an enforceable undertaking. This will ensure that their behaviour does comply with workplace legislation in the future.
While the Fair Work Ombudsman was investigating the DM&G, another food business has also signed an agreement. The fast-food outlet, called Mr Kitchen The Pines, located in Doncaster, admitted to giving a flat rate to workers. The shop is run through Xin Long Pty Ltd. The flat rate of $20 an hour does not take into account any legislation regarding times, dates, or shifts. They were also failing to pay annual leave to workers, where entitled. The business was not giving its employees their payslips, or keeping extended records for times and wages.
This business is operated by Taiwanese nationals, who claim that they had no idea about fair work laws under the Commonwealth. Once this came to light during the investigation of DM&G, Xin Long agreed to a self-audit of their payments, so that they could remedy the situation.
Lessons to Learn for Employers
This is a good example of ignorance not being any excuse, as far as the law is concerned. Employers must take it upon themselves to find out which laws they need to follow. Such an oversight might not have taken a heavy toll on the finances of DM&G or Xin Long, but it could have easily ruined a small business. It is not simply the responsibility of employees to make sure that they are getting as much as they deserve. Once underpayments have been made, they are not swept simply in the past.