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Are you next? Fair Work Ombudsman is targeting the Food Services and Accommodation Industry

The Fair Work Ombudsman is eyeing the Food services and Accommodation industry for enforcement action.
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Are you next? Fair Work Ombudsman is targeting the Food Services and Accommodation Industry

Are you next? Fair Work Ombudsman is targeting the Food Services and Accommodation Industry

5 August 2016

The food services and accommodation industry accounted for 40 percent of Enforceable Undertakings the Fair Work Ombudsman entered with employers last financial year.

Cafes and restaurants will feature prominently, while take-away food businesses also emerged as a sub-sector with ongoing issues, accounting for 19 percent of Undertakings within the food services and accommodation industry.

Enforceable Undertakings were introduced by legislation in 2009 and the Fair Work Ombudsman has been using them to improve compliance to workplace laws, without the need for civil court proceedings.

"We use Enforceable Undertakings where we have formed a view that a breach of the law has occurred, but where the employer has acknowledged this, accepted responsibility and agreed to co-operate and fix the problem," Ms Natalie James, Fair Work Ombudsman, said.

In 2015-16, a total of $3.85 million in underpaid wages and entitlements was returned to 2132 employees as a result of their employers entering into Enforceable Undertakings with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Which industries and segment of business are susceptible?

Apart from the Food Services and Accommodation sector, other industries where Enforceable Undertakings were required included Administration and Support Services (14 percent) and Retail Trade and Manufacturing (both 7 percent).

Food services and accommodation continues to generate high numbers of dispute notifications, accounting for 16 percent last financial year.

Small businesses - those with 15 or fewer employees - made up 52 percent of Enforceable Undertakings across the two financial years.

Of the 85 Enforceable Undertakings entered into over the past two financial years, almost two-thirds (62 percent) came about after an employee lodged a dispute form on the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.

A case study – Fair Work’s 3-year campaign in Food Services and Acommodation

The high number of Enforceable Undertakings in the accommodation and food services sector are reflective of findings of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s three-year national hospitality campaign, which commenced in 2012 with a wave of audits of pubs, bars, taverns and accommodation houses. The second wave took in restaurants, cafes and catering business and the third wave looked at take away food outlets.

The three phases of the campaign resulted in 801 employers found to have short-changed 4540 of their employees in excess of $2.342 million.

The Fair Work Ombudsman's National Hospitality Campaign revealed only a 52 percent compliance rate with workplace laws.

What should a business do right now?

"I encourage all business to proactively seek information on workplace relations from us, from employer organisations and professionals advising in this space," Ms James said.

"We know that, with the benefit of their expert advice, businesses are more likely to be compliant. It gives them more confidence navigating the system, especially when a dispute arises.
"We all have a part to play in compliance. There are many opportunities for us as employers, employees, government agencies and workplace advisers to draw on our mutual interests to see employers do the right thing, avoid a nasty back-payment bill, ensure a level playing field for all business and to build a culture of compliance."

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