Perth restaurant chain investigated for breach of workplace relations laws

The owner and operator of a Perth chain of restaurants is facing legal action after an investigation revealed allegations of serious breaches of workplace relations laws relating to overseas workers.

The franchisee and owner of two restaurants, Tram Hoang Han, is facing court over these allegations in relation to restaurants she formerly ran in the Perth CBD and surrounding suburbs.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) identified that Ms Han had not kept sufficient time-and-wages records for the prescribed period of seven years. Despite these poor records, the FWO was able to calculate that 100 employees across four restaurants had been underpaid more than $30,000 as a result of being short-changed their minimum hourly rate.

The money was paid back to the workers late in 2015, including to a number of international students, 417 working holiday visa holders and 457 skilled worker visa holders.

Ms Han’s outlets had a standard practice to pay low, flat rates and failed to pay penalties for weekend and overtime work. While this is a clear breach of workplace relations laws, it is also likely a breach of sponsorship obligations under the Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations 1994, which as a sponsor, Ms Han would have been bound by for her 457 workforce. Among other things, Ms Han would have been bound by the obligations to keep records, and to ensure equivalent terms and conditions of employment for the 457 visa holders sponsored by her.

Ms Han faces penalties of up to $5,100 per contravention and the company faces penalties of up to $25,500 per contravention. In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking a Court Order requiring Ms Han and the three companies to use the educational self-help tools available for employers, to prevent repeated future breaches.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James said the FWO was committed to helping employers to understand and comply with workplace laws, but operators also needed to make an effort to get the basics right in the first place.

FCB Smart Visa will continue to provide updates on sponsorship obligations and workplace related issues for employers and employees. Based on trends and a large number of recent relevant decisions by the FWO, FCB Smart Visa and FCB HR are currently preparing a seminar series to assist employers with compliance and other related issues. Invitations for this event will be sent out shortly.

If you have any migration matters that you would like to discuss, please call one of our migration agents on 02 9922 5188.