THE Fair Work Ombudsman has cracked down on United Petroleum (UP) after an investigation revealed that several of its outlets underpaid employees a combined total of more than $12,000.
A large percentage of the 19 affected employees were migrant workers from non-English speaking backgrounds who had minimal knowledge of their rights and entitlements.
The 12 UP sites under Fair Work's microscope included 11 which were owned by franchisees or commission agents, and one site which was staffed by Keycomp, an associated entity of UP.
The audit exposed more than 40 per cent of UP outlets which had been non-compliant with Fair Work laws and the relevant pay award.
Notably, all the employers in question had failed to apply modern weekend and holiday penalty rates to workers' shifts, instead paying only the base flat rate for all hours worked.
An investigation into the situations for 80 different employees also revealed that over half were visa-holders, including 31 student visa holders.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell says the findings were concerning given the vulnerable situation of many of the affected workers.
"During our activity, we found that a significant number of the contraventions identified involved migrant workers," says Campbell.
"We know that migrant workers, especially student visa holders, can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights and they are often reluctant to complain.
In one instance, Campbell says a UP franchisee short-changed five casual student visa holders $18.70 an hour when, under the relevant award, they should have received at least $25.05.
Fair Work discovered that UP did not take steps to properly test whether its franchisees or commission agents were paying employees correctly.
The watchdog has entered two enforceable undertakings with two separate UP outlet operators, Aar Dee traders and Tannous and Tannous, as a result of the contraventions.
It has issued two further compliance notices and two letters of caution to a franchisee and a commission agent for underpaying its casual employees.
It also handed a letter of caution to a second commission agent for underpaying part-time employees their minimum entitlements.
As a further penalty, the watchdog ordered UP to conduct an in-house audit of its entire Keycomp console network, which ended up revealing a further 27 employees who were owed more than $8,400 collectively in underpayments.
Business News Australia
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