Indian restaurant forced to backpay employees including 14 international students

15 March 2019: Investigation triggered by a single tip-off has forced an Indian restaurant in Queensland to pay a total of $54,470 in back-pay to its nearly two dozen employees including 14 international students.

The latest action by Fair Work Ombudsman reinforces the fact that international students from various parts of the world including from Nepal and India continue to feature heavily in cases of workplace exploitation involving “fast food, restaurant and café industry”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation revealed that between January and May last year, Saffron Indian Gourmet restaurant on the Gold Coast underpaid its 22 workers a total of  $54,470.

Acting on an anonymous tip-off from one of Saffron employees, Fair Work investigators found out that the 22 employees were paid flat hourly rates between $15 and $18.50 leading to underpayment of the ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings and weekend and public holiday penalty rates under Restaurant Industry Award.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website has a simple online tip off tool that helps employees report their unscrupulous employers.

“If you know a workplace that isn’t doing the right thing but don’t want to get involved, you can report it to us anonymously in English or 16 other languages,” Fairwork Ombudsman Sandra Parker said today.

Ms Parker further clarified that everyone has the same workplace rights in Australia – regardless of their citizenship or visa status.

According to the Ombudsman, Saffron Indian Gourmet has already commenced rectifying all underpayments through a back-payment plan and will also make a $25,000 donation to the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre.

A number of international students from Nepal told in the past that they could not always approach authorities because of their breach of visa conditions that allow them to legally work for only 20 hours per week. On the other hand, 20 hours’ worth of income isn’t sufficient enough for them to pay their tuition fees and meet living expenses. Hence, they end up working far more than 20 hours a week due to which they are always wary of seeking legal remedy even if they realise that they are being wronged.  Therefore, they become willing victims by working excessively long shifts at a rate far below the minimum wage determined by the Australian government.

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