The operator of a chicken shop in Victoria has come under fire after deducting $50 from each of his staff members’ wages after one employee’s pay packet was allegedly stolen.
Brett Wilson, whose 18-year-old daughter works around 15 hours a week at the store, contacted talkback radio station 3AW after his daughter’s boss docked everyone’s pay to cover the cost of the lost money.
The cash was allegedly stolen from a filing cabinet and the decision to dock everyone’s pay was made after no one came forward.
“She approached her boss in the back office and said what’s going on here,” Wilson told 3AW host Neil Mitchell.
“He said last week a pay packet from another employee was taken out of a filing cabinet and no one has come forward to say who did it, so I’ve taken $50 out of each and everyone’s pay packet to cover the loss of the wages.”
The radio station chose not to name the business, however, says it has since made contact with the operator who assured them he would refund the money.
Workplace lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany it can be lawful for an employer to deduct money from an employee’s wages, but “only in very limited circumstances”.
“An employer can deduct money from an employee’s pay if the deduction is principally for the employee’s benefit,” he says.
“So, for example, if the employee buys goods or services from the employer and the employee has approved a specific deduction in advance in writing.”
Vitale says should an employee suspect they have had their pay deducted, there are a number of avenues to take – but the first should be having a discussion with their boss.
“If an employee feels that money has not been correctly deducted from their wages, they should first take the matter up with their employer to see if there is a legitimate explanation or perhaps that an error has been made,” Vitale says.
“If the matter can’t be resolved, the employee is able to bring the matter to the attention of the Fair Work Ombudsman.”
Last year, a Perth café was stung by the Fair Work Ombudsman after docking an employee’s wages because a pork belly dish was “not crispy enough”.
The business has since been required to pay thousands of dollars in penalties and compensation due to unlawful deductions which took place over an 11-month period.