THE operator of popular restaurant chain Han’s Café is facing legal action over alleged serious breaches of workplace relations laws relating to overseas workers.
Ms Tram Hoang Han controls the franchise and directly owns two restaurants.
The action concerns outlets Ms Han is involved in operating at Forrest Chase in the CBD and restaurants she formerly ran at Subiaco, Hillarys and Midland.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges time- and record-keeping practices were so poor that they hindered their ability to calculate and enforce outcomes for underpaid wages and entitlements.
Ms Han allegedly told Fair Work inspectors she generally only kept time records for between two and four weeks.
Under workplace laws, employers must keep staff records for seven years.
Despite the poor records, the Ombudsman calculated that 100 employees across four restaurants had been underpaid more than $30,000 as a result of being short-changed their minimum hourly rate.
This money was paid back to the workers – including international students, 417 working holiday visa-holders and 457 skilled worker visa-holders – by late last year.
Three companies of which Ms Han is currently the sole director are also facing legal proceedings – Han Investments Pty Ltd, Han’s Café Management Pty Ltd and Han’s Café Pty Ltd.
The Ombudsman is alleging multiple record-keeping breaches.
A case management hearing was heard in the Federal Court in Perth on July 1.
Ms Han faces penalties of up to $5100 per breach and the companies face penalties of up to $25,500 per offence.
Fair Work inspectors advised Ms Han about the need to comply with minimum award pay rates in 2013 when they assisted a Han’s Café employee.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the hospitality sector was still coming to grips with Industrial Relations Law.
“Clearly, the take-away food sector, an industry comprised largely of small businesses, is grappling with the complexity of the IR system and few it seems are joining industry bodies to seek professional help and advice,” Ms James said.
“It is important that major players in the hospitality sector, industry groups and intermediaries such as accountants and lawyers, all play their part to help lift the levels of compliance above what we are seeing now.”