Finance

Café grilled over docking pay for pork that “wasn’t crispy enough”

Kirsten Robb /

A Perth café has been stung for unlawfully docking the wages of its employee’s pay, including one staff member who was charged $112 for producing crackling on a pork belly dish that was “not crispy enough”.

While the Fair Work Ombudsman has recently penalised a string of restaurants for underpaying workers, including subsidising their wages with pizza and soft drink, the watchdog is also cracking down on illegal wage deductions.

The business has been required to pay thousands of dollars in compensation and penalties for the unlawful deductions, which took place between June 2012 and May last year and involved migrant staff from India and Nepal working on Regional Sponsored Migration Visas.

The unnamed Subiaco café had also charged its staff $30 if tomato was placed in the wrong layer of a club sandwich, $18.90 if a hair was found in a breakfast dish and $12 for overcooking waffles, burning omelettes and serving cold pizza. Employees also paid a $10 charge for failure to prepare parsley for the following day.

The amounts apparently reflected the total bill from diners at the table which ordered the meal.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement the business had also been unlawfully deducting $100 a time from staff pay packets when employees were more than five minutes’ late for their rostered shifts, had failed to issue workers with pay-slips and keep accurate time-and-wages records for its employees.

James said the employees have received compensation of $5000 each from their former employer and the Ombudsman has also issued the business with on-the-spot fines totalling $7650.

James said the Fair Work Ombudsman views attempts by employers to exploit the vulnerability of overseas workers who often are unaware of their workplace rights very seriously.

Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany the concept of ‘docking’ pay as a fine or punishment is not permissible in any circumstances.

“The only circumstances in which a deduction can be made from an employee’s entitlements is where it’s for an employee’s benefit and a specific sum is agreed upon in writing,” says Vitale.

“A deduction for a punishment is strictly prohibited and subject to potentially substantial penalties, as we see here.”

“It is clearly not a constructive way of encouraging staff to improve their performance if there are performance issues that need addressing,” said James.

Image credit: Flickr/simondee.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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