About 30 eateries across Launceston will get an unexpected knock at their door this week, as the Fair Work Ombudsman zeroes in on wage theft in the hospitality industry.
The industrial watchdog will be visiting restaurants, cafes and fast-food outlets around the city to ensure workers are being correctly paid and that employers are up to regulation.
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The exact locations that the FOW's inspectors will be visiting have not been released.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker highlighted visa holders and students as two potentially vulnerable groups.
"They're often unfamiliar with Australian workplace laws. We know they're often reluctant to ask questions about their pay or entitlements or raise concerns with their employer," Ms Parker said.
"We will hold employers to account if they are not meeting their obligations and take enforcement action where appropriate. We will also educate employers on their legal responsibilities and workers about their rights."
Businesses that fail to comply with regulations could face a court-ordered penalty of up to $33,000 and up to $66,300 for failing to properly record wages. Meanwhile, individuals could be hit with a penalty up to $13,320 for similar breaches.]
Over the course of last year, the watchdog doled out more than $1.8 million in penalties to fast food, restaurant and cafe businesses.
The move comes after the industrial watchdog recovered more than $580,000 in lost wages while undertaking a similar audit in Hobart. That figure adds to the record $148 million Fair Work secured in unpaid wages in the last financial year - a 20 per cent increase on the previous period.
Of the 45 businesses audited in North Hobart, Salamanca/Battery Point and Constitution, almost 80 per cent failed to comply with workplace laws. The most commonly found breaches were failures to pay minimum wages and failure to pay casual loading.
As part of a similar operation earlier this year, the Ombudsman took legal action against Hobart cafe and hotel operator Gary Dupree over allegations he underpaid staff by $30,000.
The national program has also assessed eateries in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Darwin - uncovering similar results.
"Our targeted audits have uncovered high levels of non-compliance nationwide," Ms Parker said.
"Any workers with concerns should contact the FWO directly for free advice and assistance."