Alf's cafe underpayment of wages penalties

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $24,000 in penalties in court against the operators of a Melbourne fast food outlet. The breaches involved underpaying visa holder workers from South America while working at the Alf’s Cafe at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

Of late, the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman has been targeting fast food operators where more visa holders tend to find work and are potentially seen to be in more vulnerable and precarious situation.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $20,000 penalty against Big Daddy’s Pty Ltd, which operates an outlet trading as ‘Alf’s Café’ at the Alfred Hospital, for failing to comply with two Compliance Notices requiring it to back-pay entitlements owed to two visa holder workers from Colombia.

The Court has also imposed a $4000 penalty against the company’s sole director Elias Dannaoui for his involvement in the contraventions.

In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered Big Daddy’s Pty Ltd to fully comply with the Compliance Notices by calculating and back-paying superannuation and paying interest on the entitlements that were paid under the notices.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Hannah said.

“Employers also need to be aware that protecting vulnerable workers such as visa holders and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continue to be FWO priorities. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The FWO began an investigation after receiving requests for assistance from two workers, a married couple who had been employed at Alf’s cafe as fast food workers between 2017 and 2020.

A Fair Work Inspector issued Compliance Notices to Big Daddy’s Pty Ltd operators of Alf’s Cafe in March 2021 after forming a belief that the company had underpaid the workers’ minimum casual wages and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. It was not until August 2022 that the company made payments of $12,090.65 for one worker and $8,742.10 for the other.

Also read: FWO takes University of Melbourne to Court on underpayment of wages

Judge Natasha Laing noted that Mr Dannaoui’s Counsel, on his behalf, “…quite rightly conceded that the breaches were deliberate insofar as the respondents were aware of the Compliance Notices and failed to respond appropriately.”

Judge Laing said, in imposing the penalties, “The failure to comply with a statutory notice is serious. The efficacy of statutory notices would be hindered or made redundant if the recipients perceive that failure to comply will not carry meaningful consequences.”

“Compliance with the notices in this matter, to the extent that it occurred, only occurred after considerable delay and difficulty, and after proceedings had been commenced,” Her Honour said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders with work rights can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled. See our targeted information for visa holder workers.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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