Since the middle of 2016, more than 20,000 employees and other individuals have anonymously reported employers to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The Anonymous Report tool allows individuals to notify the FWO about alleged workplace breaches without revealing their identity.
Recently, a Gold Coast restaurateur was investigated by Fair Work inspectors after one of his employees anonymously tipped them off.
The FWO arrived at the Saffron Indian Gourmet restaurant unannounced and found that the business’s owner, Sridhar Penumechchu, had underpaid 22 of his employees a total of $54.470.
He was only paying his employees flat hourly rates between $15 and $18.50, even though he was obligated to pay them ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings, and weekend and public holiday penalty rates under the Restaurant Industry Award.
Individual underpayments ranged from $143 to $9,457.
The employees were mainly international students and temporary work visa holders.
Mr Penumechchu has now been forced to enter into an Enforceable Undertaking where he must pay back his workers through a payment plan, as well as donate $25,000 to the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre.
To show that he is now complying with the Fair Work Act, will also have to pay for an external auditor to conduct two audits of the pay and conditions of his employees, as well as provide workplace relations training to all his managers, payroll and human resource staff.
FWO’s Sandra Parker said the outcome of this investigation demonstrates that its anonymous reporting tool is working.
“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,” she said.
“In this matter, one tip off to the Fair Work Ombudsman led to one employer back-paying 22 employees over $50,000.
“All workers in Australia have the same workplace rights, regardless of their citizenship or visa status.
“This restaurant’s hefty back payment bill should serve as a warning to all businesses that they must pay the lawful minimum wage rates that apply to their workers.”
Migrant employees are able to seek assistance from the FWO without worrying about having their visas cancelled, as the FWO has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs.