Wage theft is on a roll: Sushi as a symbol of unpaid wages

Alyssa Fernandez

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.

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.

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The Different Kinds of Award Interpreters

We often chat to people who have looked at a few different award interpretation tools on the market. Most are not really sure which award interpretation tool is right for their business.  In this post, we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of award interpreters out there to help you understand what is important when looking for a tool for you or your clients. Firstly, an Award Interpreter (read about Tanda’s Award Interpreter) is software that figures out how much staff should be getting paid based on their hours and times worked.  What award interpreter is right for you? There are four different kinds and the right one depends on how your staff get paid. Salary Costing Tools: Used to calculate payroll when all your staff are paid a fixed salary. Hourly Wage Calculators: Calculates when staff get paid a single hourly rate for all hours worked. Single Rate Calculators: Pays staff only single types of pay like weekday, Saturday and Sunday rates. However, it cannot handle any of the more common rate scenarios set out in Awards. Award Rule Engines: Does all of the above. In addition, they also calculate overtime, penalty rates, allowances, accruals and leave. “All my staff get paid a salary.” If you only employ salaried staff, a Salary Costing Tool is perfect for you. This is common in white collar workforces like accounting firms. In this case, you enter each employee’s yearly salary, set rules about how leave accrues and the tool does the rest. This is simple because staff are paid the same thing most pay runs. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool. If this is you, you’re in luck – you will not need an additional system for award interpretation! “My staff get paid the same hourly rate for all hours worked.” This might come up if you run a very small business with only a few staff. This is where nobody works on weekends, receives overtime or penalty rates. Generally, this means the business is only open for a few hours on days that it does open. If that’s you, you’re after an Hourly Wage Calculator. Warning: Be careful with this one. It’s easy to miss subtle wordings in Awards that require you to pay different rates at different times. Keep in mind that if any of your staff ever get more than one pay rate in a week, an hourly wage calculator won’t work as well anymore (even if it doesn’t regularly happen). Using an Hourly Wage Calculator, you enter the hourly rate for each employee. Each week you only enter the number of hours worked (you don’t worry about times). The tool multiplies the hourly rate by the number of hours to calculate total pay. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool, so if this is you, you’re also in luck – you won’t need an additional system for award interpretation! “I employ only one type of employee. They receive weekday and weekend rates only.” If you have staff that get paid hourly and receive different rates on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you might be able to use a Single Rate Calculator. However, be careful because this only works if you have a single employment type. An Employment Type refers to the way someone is employed. This includes full-time, part-time, casual or shiftworkers. If everyone you employ is the same employment type (e.g. everyone is Full Time) then this might work for you. When using a Single Rate Award Calculator, you enter the hourly rate that each employee gets during the week. You enter the multiplier for Saturday and Sunday shifts. Also, Public Holidays, if the calculator supports it. If an employee gets a base rate of $20 and your Saturday multiplier is 1.5 (Time and a Half), they receive $30 on Saturday’s. When you enter a timesheet the system pays staff at the appropriate rate based on the days worked only. Why do these only work for one employment type? If you you have a Full Time employee (base $20/hour), and a Casual employee (base $20/hour + 25% casual loading = $25/hour). This table shows how a Single Rate Award Calculator would calculate the cost of two shifts. Weekday Rate – Full Time Saturday Rate – Full Time Weekday Rate – Casual Saturday Rate – Casual 20 30 25 37.5 In most awards, you’re meant to apply the 1.5 multiplier and then the 25% casual loading! Here is how Fair Work’s Pay Rate Calculator says you should have paid: Base Rate – Full Time (1x) Saturday Rate – Full Time (1.5x) Base Rate – Casual (1.25x) Saturday Rate – Casual (1.75x) 20 30 25 35 Single Rate Award Calculator’s are great if you have staff on a single employment type as all their multipliers will be the same. However as soon as you have different kinds of staff, it stops working correctly. (It also doesn’t work if you have to pay overtime, penalty rates, deal with leave or accruals. It’s really just for simple weekend rates) Some payroll systems include Single Rate Calculators, but most likely you’ll need an external system. Most award interpretation tools on the market can be used for Single Rate Calculation. If that’s what you need, just pick whichever looks good and is well supported. However, if you have multiple employment types, or other more complex pay requirements (eg. Overtime, Allowances, Penalty Rates, RDOs, TOIL, or Leave costing), read on… “I employ more than one type of employee,” or “I have to pay overtime, penalty rates or allowances,” or “I have to manage RDO or TOIL accruals and leave” If any of these sound familiar, you’re after an Award Rule Engine. It’s called a rule engine because it’s based on different payroll rules that you configure, allowing you to pay staff at different rates across the week. However, it also covers different rates within the same day and for different employment types. Some Award Rule Engines also come with pre-built sets of rules called Templates. A template contains all of the rules necessary to pay under a particular Fair Work Award. A good template will include all of the base rates for different levels of staff (each employee will have a minimum wage and the template should include this). A really good template will automatically keep your payroll software up to date based on Fair Work Award updates. Here’s some other things to keep an eye out for when comparing Award Rule Engines. You should ask these questions before implementing a system so you don’t get burned 3 months down the track. Can I set different Saturday/Sunday multipliers for Full Time and Casual staff? When staff pay rates go up (each year when the Fair Work updates minimum rates), are these updated automatically? Are staff pay rates automatically updated in the linked payroll system? Does the engine understand the concept of Ordinary Hours? (Ordinary hours of work accrue superannuation and count towards overtime, while non-ordinary hours don’t. Systems that treat all time as ordinary can end up costing you a lot more in labour costs – and staff won’t complain if you get that wrong!) Can I configure different pay rates for junior staff? Does the system automatically update them on birthdays? How does the engine handle RDOs or TOIL accrual? Are you able to configure accrual for arbitrary leave types? Can the engine pay the correct allowances for split shifts? Can you configure how long a shift must be “split” before this kicks in? Can you configure automatic allowances (like Laundry Allowances) and manual ones (like Overtime Meal Allowances)? Just for specific employees? Based on the times or days that they work? Can I configure specific Public Holiday dates for each employee (important if you have  multiple sites with different Show Holidays or Regional Public Holidays). How is overtime calculated if an employee takes leave midway through the pay period? What if they take it on the last day? Can I calculate overtime based on an employee working outside their rostered hours? If a Template has been built based on an Award, can I change the ordinary span of hours based on agreement with the majority of my staff? Can I configure special provisions for shift workers? By the way… with Tanda’s Award Rule Engine, the answer to all those questions is yes! Hopefully, this post has helped clear some confusion around the types of tools that exist in the market and what you can use depending on how your workforce is set up. If you’ve got any further questions, feel free to email us on info@tanda.co

Awards & Rostering    |   

Penalty Rates Decision: Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates to be cut

Fair Work Penalty Rates Decision Source: The Fair Work Commission The Fair Work Commission has today announced that Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are to be cut across Hospitality, Retail, and Fast Food Awards, while Saturday penalty rates are to remain the same. Changes to Sunday Penalty Rates Sunday penalty rates for full time and part time hospitality workers will be reduced from 175% to 150%, rates for casuals will remain the same at 175%. Level 1 Employees under the Fast Food Award will see a reduction in Sunday penalty rates from 150% to 125% for full-time and part-time employees. Casuals will have a reduction from 175% to 150%. No changes will be made to Sunday penalty rates for Level 2 and Level 3 Employees under the Award. Full time and part-time retail workers will have Sunday penalty rates reduced from 200% to 150%. Casual Sunday rates for retail will also be reduced from 200% to 175%. Changes to Public Holiday Penalty Rates Public holiday rates for full-time workers in hospitality will be reduced from 250% to 225%, with no change for casual Public Holiday penalty rates. Changes to Public Holiday rates will come into effect July 1, 2017. However, The Commission has stated that the immediate implementation of updated Sunday penalty rates would create undue financial distress for Sunday workers. As such transitional arrangements for Sunday penalty rate changes will be made in the coming months. The decision was handed down after more than eight months of deliberation, and comes after The Productivity Commission recommended bringing Sunday penalty rates into line with Saturday rates in 2015. This is the biggest Industrial Relations decision The Fair Work Commission has made in recent years. It is hoped that reducing penalty rates will bring  about more ‘positive employment effects’ for businesses, and will “lead to increased trading hours, an increase in the level and range of services offered on Sundays and Public Holidays and an increase in overall hours worked.” With the outcome of the decision expected to come into play later this year, it is crucial that business owners have the correct tools and processes in place to update changes to wage rates correctly, and better manage their labour costs to capitalise on the penalty rate reductions.

Events & Media AU    |   

Public Service Announcement: Fair Work Crackdown

The recent spate of Fair Work crackdowns has increased concern for small business owners, as the severity and prevalence of non-compliance and underpayment continues to increase. Fair Work recently imposed a $143,000 penalty against a Brisbane Business Owner and his former internal Payroll and Account Manager, after it was uncovered that they had deliberately underpaid staff at a Japanese food outlet. While business owners have always been liable for such breaches, it is the first case of a payroll manager being penalised under accessorial liability. Accessorial liability has been one of the preferred tools wielded by Fair Work recently, as it focuses on looking past the principal company to further down the supply and managerial chain. The increase in the number of wage underpayments, has led the Federal Government to introduce the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017. The Bill intends to increase the maximum penalties for those found breaching the Fair Work Act. It will seek to hold franchisors and holding companies responsible for actions of their franchisees and subsidiaries, if they are found to be in breach of the Fair Work Act. If passed, this legislation will see the maximum penalties for a company increase from $54,000 to $540,000, and maximum penalties for an individual increase from $10,800 to $108,000. Fines will be imposed for each offence, and could potentially see businesses facing over $1 million in penalties, for breaching the Fair Work Act. Fair Work has strict compliance guidelines and regulations regarding pay rates, payslip laws and staff leave entitlements. Business owners therefore need to be proactive in their approach to compliance, to ensure that they are legally meeting their compliance requirements. Businesses looking to gain greater compliance comfort and oversight into their business should implement workforce management software solutions for peace of mind and security to managing and paying staff. These solutions not only automate Award and EA calculations (where most of the payroll mistakes occur), but also provides oversight into the entire business, including pay rates, staff attendance and wage costs. For more information regarding the Fair Work Act and regulations please visit the Fair Work site.

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About the author

Alyssa Fernandez

Alyssa Paula is a left-handed creative based in Manila. Having a knack for design, branding, and copywriting, she creates tasteful graphics and copy, and develops marketing strategies for Tanda, the world's #1 workforce success platform.

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