Wage theft is on a roll: Sushi as a symbol of unpaid wages
When we hear the word ‘sushi’, what normally comes to mind is a dish of specially prepared vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, combined with a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. Recently, however, the delectable Japanese cuisine has become the poster boy for unpaid wages thanks to […]
15 October 2018 |
When we hear the word ‘sushi’, what normally comes to mind is a dish of specially prepared vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, combined with a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. Recently, however, the delectable Japanese cuisine has become the poster boy for unpaid wages thanks to a targeted audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). The Sushi Blitz A few days ago, the FWO has audited 45 sushi businesses in New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian federal capital Canberra, finding widespread non-compliance with workplace laws amounting to $746,203 in unpaid wages for almost 400 workers in a recent blitz of sushi restaurants. It found that 39 out of the 45 audited businesses committed workplace law breaches, which equates to a non-compliance rate of almost 90%. Furthermore, 37 of the audited businesses were found to have underpaid staff, while 29 had breached record-keeping and payslip laws. Workplace lawyers has described the blitz as a sign that the FWO is narrowing the focus of its widespread underpayment campaign, with an interest on specific categories within the food sector Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the audits followed “increased requests” for assistance from vulnerable workers in sushi outlets. “While the Fair Work Ombudsman never excuses employers who underpay their workers, we know that labour represents a significant cost in the food industry,” Parker said in a statement. The price of cheap sushi With the recent string of revelations from the audit, it was found that the victims of the non-compliance included young migrants and foreigners in Australia on the country’s popular working holiday visas. They were paid a flat rate that led to the underpayment of various loadings and leave entitlements. “Our activity identified that sushi eateries often employ vulnerable workers including young workers, migrant visa holders and those from non-English speaking backgrounds. The Fair Work Ombudsman has a strong focus on protecting the rights and entitlements of these vulnerable workers as they may not be fully aware of their workplace rights or are reluctant to complain,” Parker explains. With this, the FWO has asked consumers to consider the real price of cheap food. “Although everybody loves cheap sushi, perhaps we should ask ourselves — is what I’m paying enough to cover workers’ minimum wages and entitlements?” Read more: Taking Back Time: Solving the enduring wage theft problem in Australia Let the record state… Proper record keeping has also become a prime focus for the FWO, amid a spate of cases where businesses have either been found to have intentionally not kept adequate records or have failed to do so accidentally. Ombudsman Parker stated that they were particularly disappointed with the high level of record-keeping breaches discovered in the activity. “New laws mean employers face significantly higher penalties for serious breaches and we have no tolerance for employers that give inspectors false records,” Parker said in a statement. Some say that complacency was driving some SMEs to think just providing a payslip to employees was adequate, but this is not the case. While it can be said that the complex awards system is a root cause for non-compliance, the reality is that ignorance of the Fair Work Act will not shield an employer from its consequences. “You need a roster or some other time and attendance record to know when hours were worked, to see what the penalties and loadings at that time were,” Parker explains. The moral of the sushi With all this information presented before us, it’s about time we get to the moral of this sushi-centric story: The responsibility to pay staff correctly still falls squarely on the shoulders of employers, whether they’re running a retail chain, a neighborhood cafe, or a sushi joint. To a degree, business owners and managers can insure themselves against controversy down the line by investing in a time and attendance software. Read more: The Digital Workforce Success Revolution: Why you need to shift to cloud-based HR today However, at the end of the day, the best way to rid yourself of any controversy at all would be to educate yourself on whatever laws govern your industry and to be a good and lawful business owner for the benefit of your employees and yourself.