A HIGH-profile Sydney Harbour restaurant has been chipped by the Fair Work Ombudsman for underpaying its staff.
While the restaurant's identity has not been disclosed, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says it is one of many top nosheries that are being monitored following complaints her office has received from employees.
In the latest incident, an Italian backpacker in Australia on a 417 working holiday visa was allegedly short-changed almost $6000 while working as a kitchen hand last year.
The Fair Work Ombudsman found the employee was paid a flat rate of $16.50 an hour in the last six weeks of his employment less than the minimum hourly rate. While the employee was paid higher hourly rates before then, they were not enough to cover casual loadings and penalty rates.
The restaurant initially argued that it had a flexibility arrangement with the kitchen hand which provided "benefits" in return for the $16.50 flat hourly rate, including discounted staff uniforms, on-the-job training, meals and drinks.
However, James says the business was under a misguided belief that it could count such benefits as meeting its workplace obligations under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.
The restaurant was forced to back pay the employee $5703 and $386 to a former waitress following a compliance notice issued by the fair Work Ombudsman.
James says a pattern of behaviour by the restaurant now means it has been targeted for ongoing education and compliance monitoring.
The Fair Work Ombudsman issued almost 120 compliance notices last financial year and began legal proceedings in several cases where they were ignored.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says a number of other high-profile Sydney CBD restaurants are also being monitored by the agency's overseas worker's team following reports that some are paying flat hourly rates to overseas workers below minimum award entitlements.
"We treat the underpayment of visa-holders particularly seriously, because they can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights or are reluctant to complain," James says.
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