Bakery franchise Breadtop has made an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure its 800 plus employees are receiving their full entitlements.
The move by the franchise comes as the FWO has received a small number of complaints against the chain.
In conjunction with the FWO, the bakery has established a self-audit process to review staff entitlements and correct any issues it discovers.
Workplace law expert Peter Vitale told SmartCompany this is the “best way to handle a bad situation”.
“Where you’re faced with a situation where there are publicised complaints, this is a better option than having legal proceedings commenced by the ombudsman and having action commenced by the court,” he says.
The complaints received by the ombudsman had been about the underpayment of wages and entitlements.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement the company was taking a proactive approach.
“We congratulate Breadtop for showing corporate responsibility to its network of employees, showing leadership to the rest of the franchising industry,” she said.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to look for ways to assist employers and employees to be able to self-resolve issues in the workplace.”
McDonald’s was the first business to sign a Proactive Compliance Deed with the FWO in mid-2011 and since then a number of other franchises have followed suit including Spotless, Red Rooster, Domino’s and Asset Industries Australia.
Vitale says Proactive Compliance Deeds are voluntary, but it’s better for a company to not get to a stage where it needs to enter into one.
“As the name implies, it sets out a range of proactive steps an employer agrees to take in order to ensure they’re compliant with the law,” he says.
“Looking at the employers who have previously entered these sorts of arrangements they’re typically retailers and have a number of dispersed outlets and in that sort of business there is a lot of responsibility on local management, especially if it’s a franchise.”
James says the deed facilitates better communication between employers and their staff and also strengthens co-operation and working arrangements in the workplace.
“The Deeds are a valuable way for us to engage with employers who want to do the right thing and we commend Breadtop for taking the extra step of joining this program,” she says.
“Recognising that problems may sometimes occur with payment of correct wages and entitlements, Breadtop will be asking its franchise holders to pay careful attention to the minimum hourly rate, loadings, allowances and penalties.”
Breadtop and its franchisees will examine the pay packets of up to 10% of its workforce. It has also established an employee liaison officer who staff can contact to discuss their workplace rights.
Vitale says franchises need to have checks and balances in place to ensure each business is complying with its obligations from the ground up.
“Most franchise agreements would have a clause requiring the franchisee meets its obligations under workplace laws and there should be a mechanism there for the franchisors to monitor the franchisees,” he says.
Breadtop opened its first store in Melbourne in 2002 and today it has 22 stores across Victoria, 20 stores in New South Wales, 13 stores in Queensland, three stores in South Australia and three stores in the Australian Capital Territory.