Four waiters and a chef at the Saltshaker Caf and Restaurant in Tasmania’s Swansea were underpaid a total of $20,242 over a 10 month period.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, a significant portion of the underpayments was the result of the restaurant paying the employees flat hourly rates during the peak tourist season. The rates weren’t sufficient to cover the penalty rates they were entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award.

During the 10 month period to August 2015, the waiters were paid an hourly rate of $22.90 and the chef $26.50, however they were entitled to rates of up to $27.71 on weekends, up to $36.94 for overtime hours and more than $46 on public holidays.

Total individual underpayments ranged from $3,341 to $4,929.

During a business downturn in the off-peak season, the restaurant also failed to provide at least 38 hours of paid work per week and minimum shift length of six hours to four of the employees, employed on a full-time basis. A part-time employee also received shifts that did not meet the minimum requirements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said payment of flat hourly rates that undercut Award penalty rates is a persistent issue in the hospitality industry.

“This restaurant has avoided facing legal action by fully co-operating with our investigation and agreeing to rectify all underpayments – but it has been put on notice of the need to comply in future,” James said.

James said hospitality businesses also need to be aware that downturns do not exempt them from meeting their employees’ minimum lawful entitlements.

Saltshaker Caf and Restaurant has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman aimed at encouraging behavioural change and future compliance. It has also commenced back-paying the employees via a six month back-payment plan and it will commission two external audits of wages and records for all employees this year, with the results reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The restaurant will also display a workplace notice detailing its contraventions.


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