Already this year, the Federal Circuit Court has handed down a record penalty of $532,000 to one café owner for exploiting five workers including two cooks at his Canteen Cuisine café in Albury.
Fares Ghazale, the former owner of the café was ordered to pay $88,810 in the Federal Circuit Court, while his company Rubee Enterprises Pty Ltd was penalised a further $444,100.
In this case of gross exploitation, Ghazale allowed his workers to keep just a fraction of their wages each week by threatening that he would withdraw his support for their visas.
He forced the workers to withdraw cash from an ATM and repay him large amounts of their wages, leaving them with as little as $6 an hour.
One employee was told, “If anything happens to my business, I will kill you. If you complain to anyone, I will kill you and cancel your visa”.
Sweeping new powers for Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)
Of course, this record penalty comes before Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, brings in new legislation which further emboldens the powers of the FWO. The new legislation includes plans to increase fines for breaches by ten times the current penalties.
So, with the promise of sweeping new powers for the FWO and much-inflated penalties, it’s highly worthwhile checking that you have your house in order:
1. Awards and Pay
With a number of different awards covering workers in the hospitality industry, it’s important to double-check you’re using the correct award for your employees.
2. Workplace Policies
Whether it’s the service of alcohol, personal grooming or anti-discrimination, ensure your workplace policies are enforced and up-to-date. The first step in enforcement is to properly communicate them to your employees.
3. Backpacker Tax
As of 1st January this year, if you employ working holiday makers, you need to withhold tax at 15%. If they fail to give you a Tax File Number, you need to withhold 47% of their earnings.
4. Employment Agreements
Make sure your employment agreements are written in plain English and reference the specific hospitality industry award that applies to them. Also, include a list of duties and job description to ensure there’s a common understanding of expectations.
Even for hospitality workers, the right for employees to request flexible working arrangements is enshrined in Australian employment law, and as part of the National Employment Standards. Make sure you respond to requests for flexibility in a compliant and constructive way.
To learn more about keeping your business HR compliant, download The Essential Guide To HR Compliance.
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