Nationwide burger franchise Grill’d has rejected claims it is deliberately using its traineeship program to underpay young workers.
The comments come after the Fair Work Ombudsman confirmed it is conducting “enquiries” into the business.
The ombudsman is yet to specify what prompted the investigation but it is suspected the enquires relate to below-award wages paid to staff going through Grill’d’s traineeship program.
In a statement, a Grill’d spokesperson denied the business deliberately attempted to reduce staff wages and that while staff are encouraged to undertake a traineeship, they are not required to do so.
Under one third of the chain’s employees are currently undertaking the traineeship, which the spokesperson said takes an average of 13 months to complete.
“Our traineeship program is accredited and administered by qualified external training providers and those completing it receive nationally recognised qualifications,” the spokesperson said.
“It enhances the skills of trainees not just for Grill’d but for the trainee generally. Trainee contracts for those under 18 years of age are co-signed by a parent or guardian.”
More than 750 completed the program in the past 12 months, the spokesperson said.
“Unlike most of the hospitality industry, all of our roles are permanent jobs as we seek to commit to our team and professionalise the guest experience,” they added.
“We offer a colleagial connected environment for all employees, whether trainees or non- trainees, including training programs, development of teamwork, leadership skills, flexibility and a fun and engaging environment.”
Case highlights trainee complexity
Edith Cowan University professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Dr Pi-Shen Seet, told The New Daily the saga demonstrated the sometimes confusing relationships between employers, trainees, and registered training organisations (RTO).
On-the-job training is often of great benefit to staff, Dr Seet said, and the lower pay represents a trade-off for workers.
“In Australia, and in most parts of the world, trainees are paid less than employees. How much a trainee gets compared with an employee are all regulated under the enterprise agreement and by what is required under Fair Work rules,” he said.
“One of the issues though is that employers will want to stretch it out, because dragging it out means the employer gets to pay for the person to man the counter but at a lower rate.
“The deal for the trainee is that even at the lower rate, the employer has to do all the record keeping, and at the end of it they get a certificate.”
In the Grill’d case, trainees receive one of three different, officially recognised qualifications, based on where the worker is employed.
Those qualifications are a Certificate III in retail (SIR30216) for South Australian staff, Certificate II in hospitality (SIT20316) for employees in New South Wales, and Certificate III in hospitality (SIT30616) for all other states.
Dr Seet said the more complicated part was when a trainee completed training and was entitled to the full award rate.
At this point, some employers will choose to reduce an employees hours and put on more trainees in order to keep costs down, though this is not always the case.