News National Bar, restaurant and cafe workers are still being ripped off

Bar, restaurant and cafe workers are still being ripped off

Wage theft
Wage theft is common in Australia's hospitality industry. Photo: Getty
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Despite nationwide outrage over recent wage theft scandals, hundreds of hospitality workers in Australia are still being ripped off – and it’s more likely to happen to women.

Celebrity chefs like Rockpool Dining’s Neil Perry, former Masterchef judge George Calombaris and pastry chef Adriano Zumbo have all been caught out for short-changing staff millions of dollars.

But the exposure of rampant wage theft hasn’t stopped other hospitality business owners from ripping off their workers.

About 40 per cent of Australian hospitality workers fear they aren’t being paid properly, new research shows.

Of those, about one-third found mistakes when they double-checked their pay packet to make sure.

At the time, the wage theft scandals shocked people around the nation, with workers’ rights advocates pushing for tougher penalties. Some even called for jail time.

But many hospitality workers were unsurprised.

Poor behaviour from bar, cafe and restaurant owners has earned the industry a reputation for underpaying employees.

Advocates have said the George Calombaris wage theft scandal is just the ‘tip of the exploitation iceberg’. Photo: Getty/AAP

The survey, conducted by hospitality platform Barcats, also found female workers discovered more errors in their pay than male counterparts.

Half of the women surveyed found it necessary to check pay calculations and more than 39 per cent found mistakes, compared to 44 per cent of men finding it necessary to scrutinise their pay and only 21.8 per cent finding discrepancies.

Brisbane was ranked the top city where hospitality staff were ripped off (52 per cent), ahead of Melbourne (33 per cent) and Sydney (27 per cent).

Jeffrey Williams, founder and CEO of Barcats, said it was no surprise that more and more hospitality workers found it difficult to trust their employer following the high-profile wage thefts by celebrity chefs.

“The pay scandals from the last couple of years have had an impact on staff trust when it comes to their pay,” Mr Williams said.

“The recent pay scandals have driven 54.55 per cent of Australia’s hospitality venues to re-visit their pay rates and policies in the last 6 months.”

He also said hospitality staff aged between 35 to 44 years old were more likely to find mistakes in their pay than those in the 25-34 and 18-24 age brackets.

Last financial year, more than half of the matters taken to court by the Fair Work Ombudsman alleged breaches of workplace laws by the fast food, restaurants and cafes sector.

While the hospitality industry accounts for only seven per cent of Australia’s labour force, this group made up 17 per cent of all Fair Work disputes and 36 per cent of all anonymous reports received in the last financial year.

“Improving workplace law compliance in the fast food, restaurants and cafes (FRAC) sector is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman,” a spokesperson told The New Daily. 

The independent statutory agency secured more than $1.6 million in court-ordered penalties for cases involving fast food, restaurant and cafes.

It also recovered more than $5.1 million for hospitality workers.

If you have concerns about pay and other entitlements, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman here for assistance.

Fair Work Info line 13 13 94

  • If you believe you have been underpaid by an employer and would like to share your story, contact Samantha Dick at

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