Melbourne restaurant fined $100k for underpaying visa holder

21 February, 2017 by
Danielle Bowling

In less than nine months, a Melbourne restaurant underpaid a Taiwanese visa holder more than $30,000 in what the case’s judge referred to as “an egregious departure from the mandated minimum rates of pay.”

Food Republic Australia Pty Ltd, the operators of the Taiwanese and Malaysian hawker-style restaurant now trading as Kitchen Republik in Box Hill, have been ordered to pay $107,551 after admitting to underpaying the worker with flat hourly rates of $10 and $11.

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The employee, in Australia on a 417 working holiday visa and speaking limited English, was 22 years old at the time and was underpaid $33,169 working as a kitchen hand between June and November 2014, and March and July 2015.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after the employee, who has since returned to Taiwan, lodged a request for assistance.

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The company admitted to contravening the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, which entitled the worker to have been paid $17.49 to $18.02 for ordinary hours and penalty rates ranging from $22.53 to $45.05 for weekend, public holiday and overtime work.

The worker completed more than 770 hours of overtime, an average of about 20 hours overtime per week.  

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The company also failed to provide payment in lieu of notice and untaken annual leave entitlements on the worker’s termination, and made record-keeping and pay-slip contraventions. The worker was not given any pay slips during either of the employment periods.

Judge Heather Riley said “[The employee] was a young and vulnerable worker, who the respondent grossly exploited. It is necessary for the court to signal its disapproval of such conduct in strong terms, both to the respondent and to the industry generally.”

Riley said there would have been significantly higher penalties had the company not co-operated with the authorities, taken corrective action and shown a degree of contrition.

A director of the company gave affidavit evidence that the contraventions were “totally unacceptable.”

The company rectified the underpayments in full last year.

In the 2015-16 financial year, 38 of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s 50 litigations (76 percent) involved a visa holder. Sixteen of those litigations involved a 417 visa holder.

In 2015-16, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered just over $3 million for all visa holders, with $1.37 million of this for 417 visa holders.