Unpaid wages totalling $78,944 have been recovered for 230 Soul Origin workers.

In September 2019, Fair Work Inspectors investigated 39 stores in Canberra, Sydney, Wollongong, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Melbourne, and a manufacturing site for the salad, sandwich and coffee franchise.

The investigation was spurred on by multiple enquiries and anonymous reports from workers about potential breaches of workplace laws.

Two of the stores are operated by the franchisor, while franchisees operate the remaining 37. The investigation found that 33 sites weren’t compliant with workplace laws, with 22 failing to correctly pay workers or meet legally mandated pay slip and record-keeping requirements.

In total, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $22,216 for nine workers at two Gold Coast stores; $20,890 for 10 workers in three stores in Adelaide; $10,927 for 53 workers in five Sydney stores plus the manufacturing site; $9,899 for 41 workers in four Melbourne stores; $10,505 for 71 workers in eight Brisbane stores; $2,385 for 34 workers in three Canberra stores; and $2,122 for 12 workers at one store in Wollongong.

Inspectors issued 15 Compliance Notices requiring employers to rectify breaches of the law, with the related investigations resulting in $25,674 in back-payments for 164 workers. Inspectors also issued seven Infringement Notices resulting in payments of fines totalling $11,760. These businesses were put on notice that any future breaches are likely to result in stronger enforcement action. Six Soul Origin outlets remain under investigation.

“The FWO’s findings across the Soul Origin network should serve as a reminder to all employers within franchise networks that if they don’t prioritise compliance with workplace laws significant numbers of workers can be underpaid,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to focus on improving workplace compliance among franchises and across the fast food, restaurant and café industry this year. While the Soul Origin investigation began before the pandemic, the FWO continues to enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner, as we know COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses in the food industry.”

Image credit: Soul Origin