Victorian pubs and bars least compliant, amid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back-pay awarded nationally

Victoria is the least compliant state when it comes to workplace practices in pubs, bars, taverns and accommodation businesses, the Fair Work Ombudsman has found.

Less than half, 45%, of Victorian businesses in these sectors were found to be compliant, compared to the highest rate of compliance nationally in Queensland at 82%.

New South Wales and South Australia also rated better for compliance, both at 72%, while Western Australia lagged behind at 54% compliance and the Northern Territory at 52% compliance.

The findings were part of a national campaign launched by the FWO earlier this year to investigate hospitality practices. It checked the books of random business for compliance with workplace laws.

In Victoria, 101 audits were completed, with 55 businesses showing compliance issues.

Underpaying staff was a key issue of non-compliance, with 24 companies in Victoria underpaying 107 employees a total figure of $92,356.

Only 10 of the 27 businesses audited in the pubs, bars and taverns sector in Victoria were fully compliant with workplace laws, and 44 employees were found to have been underpaid $29,878.

In the Victorian accommodation sector, 35 of the 73 businesses audited were fully compliant with workplace laws. However, a total of 63 employees in the sector had been underpaid a total of $62,477.

Other issues included record-keeping, pay slip and technical non-compliance.

Nationally, the FWO completed 750 audits, and of those 515 businesses (69%) were found to be compliant.

One business was found to have underpaid 629 employees a total $367,000.

Fair Work ombudsman Natalie James said non-compliant businesses need to step up and get familiar with legal obligations to their staff.

“Underpayment of penalty rates and failure to increase minimum base rates of pay in line with the annual wage review decision were common non-compliance issues in Victoria,” she said.

“We will work with relevant stakeholders and consider focusing further compliance and education activities on accommodation providers, bars, pubs and taverns in Victoria in future to improve compliance levels.”

The FWO reported that in all cases, the employers accepted assistance from Fair Work inspectors to voluntarily back-pay workers.

In late November, the FWO announced its intent to also crack down on the fast food industry, and it is writing to 7000 fast food businesses across Australia regarding compliance.

The aim of the campaign is to educate fast food businesses about their legal obligations toward their employees and will be backed up by a random audit of 300 businesses early next year.

At the time of the announcement, James told SmartCompany the FWO is targeting the fast food industry because it employs a large number of people and includes many small and medium-sized businesses.

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