The operator of a dozen restaurants across Melbourne has been required to back-pay almost 250 workers after inadvertently underpaying their Christmas Day entitlements.
The 246 employees have been reimbursed a total of $21,700 following intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The largest individual underpayment was $181.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the restaurant operator mistakenly believed it could declare Christmas Day a “shut down”, rather than paying its permanent employees for a day off for a public holiday.
The employees are employed at restaurants located in Melbourne’s CBD, Ringwood, Dandenong, Fountain Gate, Werribee, Glen Waverley, Malvern East, Wantirna South, Preston and Maribyrnong.
James said Fair Work inspectors believe the employer made a genuine error and it has therefore avoided enforcement action after co-operating with the Agency.
However, James said the case highlights the importance of employers taking the necessary steps to ensure they understand the wage rates applicable to their employees, including penalty rates.
“It’s important that employers who are unsure about their obligations contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice and information,” James said.
James said most underpayments are inadvertent and the result of employers failing to check their minimum obligations under workplace laws.
“When we find errors, our preference is to educate employers about their obligations and assist them to put processes in place to ensure the mistakes are not repeated,” she said.
Information available at www.fairwork.gov.au/publicholidays includes an overview of the workplace laws that apply on public holidays, including what employers need to pay and what employees are entitled to.
In 2014-15, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $5.9 million in underpaid wages and entitlements for 4070 employees in Melbourne.