The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $393,453 in wages for 479 underpaid workers after investigating cafés, restaurants and fast food outlets in Darwin. 

Around 48 businesses across 22 suburbs were targeted including Darwin City, Casuarina and Palmerston City.

The audits were part of a national program that has targeted various food precincts in Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Launceston.

Businesses were selected for surprise inspections based on their risk of breaching workplace laws.

At-risk businesses had a history of non-compliance with the FWO, were subject to anonymous tip-offs, or employed vulnerable visa holders, which were found at two thirds of businesses.

The Fair Work Ombudsman concluded in its investigations that 76 per cent of businesses were non-compliant.

Out of 34 businesses found to be in breach, 31 had underpaid their workers while 10 had failed to meet pay slip and record-keeping requirements.

The most common breaches found were the failure to pay penalty rates or casual loading (28 businesses), as well as the underpayment of the minimum hourly rate of pay (13) and the failure to pay correct overtime allowances (13).

In total, Darwin businesses back-paid 479 employees, with the largest recovery being $94,687 from one business for underpaying 15 casual and part-time employees minimum wages and weekend penalties.

Fair Work has issued a Compliance Notice each to 32 businesses, recovering a total of $390,177 for 465 workers.

10 infringement notices were issued for pay-slip and record-keeping breaches resulting in $12,792 in paid fines.

Three businesses still remain under investigation and non-compliant businesses were warned that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action.

“We will continue to prioritise improving compliance in this sector and protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and students who are over-represented,” says Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“Employers can use our free tools and resources if they need assistance meeting their obligations. Workers with concerns about their pay or entitlement should come forward for help.”

Image credit: Miss Tourist