As more students move to Australia to study, warning is issued over rogue employers

by Ray Clancy on October 16, 2018

in Jobs in Australia

Working in fast food restaurants is popular with students in Australia, but a workers rights organisation is warning those from overseas who may not be familiar with employer regulations not to be taken advantage of.

The warning from the Fair Work Ombudsman comes after it announced it has begun legal action against a pizza outlet in Melbourne for underpaying employees and at a time when more students from around the world are opting to study in Australia.

(Wavebreak Media Ltd/Bigstock.com)

The number of international students choosing to study in Australia has surged over the past few years to the point that Australia is overtaking the UK as the world’s second biggest destination for international students, behind the United States.

New research from University College London’s Centre for Global Higher Education, shows that Australia is likely to have already moved into second place when data for 2017/2018 is published.

‘Australia shares the advantages of all English speaking countries in the global market. Its reputation for quality is not as strong as the UK and the US but it has a favourable climate and proximity to East and South East Asia, and it is closer than the UK to India,’ said professor Simon Marginson, the centre’s director.

‘These are the most important source regions for international students. Australia has also been less nervous than the UK about migration in general, and the possibility of international students becoming migrants in particular,’ he added.

In one of its latest cases the Fair Work Ombudsman received a request for assistance from an employee of the Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar franchise, and inspectors subsequently investigated the Cheltenham Crust outlet owned by Desire Food.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that it underpaid several workers a total of $35,725 relating to minimum ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings, annual leave entitlements, a special clothing allowance and penalty rates for night-time, weekend and public holiday work.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also alleges that Desire Food breached workplace laws by providing inspectors with false and misleading records that showed employees had been paid higher rates than was actually the case.

Further alleged breaches include not paying for meal breaks and a transport allowance, failing to engage casual employees for a minimum of three hours, not issuing pay slips, failing to issue pay slips that complied with the Fair Work Regulations 2009 and failing to adhere to frequency of pay laws.

All seven Crust employees worked as delivery drivers or pizza makers and at least three of these employees were living in Australia on student visas, and one was just 17.

‘The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken a fast food franchisee to court because we have a strong focus on protecting the workplace rights of vulnerable workers in Australia. We are conscious that age, language and cultural barriers, a lack of awareness about workplace entitlements and a reluctance to complain can create difficulties for some workers,’ said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

‘More broadly, it is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that fast food, restaurant and cafe workers receive their correct wages and entitlements. Improving workplace compliance across the sector will help to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage gained by employers who underpay staff,’ she explained.

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