Fast food chain Red Rooster has been ordered to repay more than $640,000 to staff members after a self-audit revealed approximately half of its workforce had been underpaid in 2011 and 2012. The affected staff members will now receive up to $3030 in backpay. The "takeaway" of this story is that you should always contact the Fair Work Ombudsman if you think you're being underpaid.
Red Rooster self-audited the pay packets of 3140 employees across 106 of its franchise stores following a string of staff complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman. The joint investigation found that every audited staff member had been underpaid a collective total of $645,253 between 2011 and 2012.
This is reportedly the largest figure paid out to underpaid staff since self-audits were instituted via the Proactive Compliance Deed. According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, a significant portion of the underpayments came from 16 Red Rooster outlets in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
In the Fair Work Ombudsman report, Red Rooster's holding company stated that it was "never their intention" to underpay employees. All managers believed they were meeting their employer obligations under the Red Rooster Agreement 2009. We imagine this is of small solace to the thousands of staff who were short-changed — especially those who worked for the 23 outlets since placed into liquidation who are now unable to collect their unpaid wages.
This isn't the first time a major Australian fast food outlet has been forced to repay staff following a self-audit: both McDonald's and Domino's Pizza have also signed Proactive Compliance Deeds. In 2012, McDonald's was forced to repay $3142 in unpaid wages while Domino's forked out $588,000. (McDonald's most recent self-audit is still ongoing.)
“Many of the young people working in Red Rooster franchises would have had little, or no previous work experience, and limited knowledge of their lawful entitlements,” the Fair Work Ombudsman said in a statement.