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The Fair Work Ombudsman will audit businesses in Melbourne as part of its latest compliance campaign.

The audits will target hotspots including restaurants and cafes in the popular Degraves Street and Hardware Lane dining strips in the Melbourne CBD.

Fair Work inspectors will check that employers are complying with their legal obligations. Including paying employees their lawful minimum wages and entitlements under the Fair Work Act, National Employment Standards and relevant Modern Awards.

Inspectors will also check compliance with record-keeping and pay-slip obligations.

The maximum penalties for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips have doubled to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records has tripled to $12,600 for an individual.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the audits are the latest in a string of proactive compliance activities targeting popular food hubs.

“Protecting the rights of vulnerable workers in the fast food, restaurant and café sector is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman. Successive activities in popular food precincts across Australia have revealed unacceptable breaches of workplace laws.”

“Our audits have established a link between prices and wage underpayments and it is clear that the true cost of cheap food may be the employees’ lawful entitlements. We will take enforcement action if today’s audits find serious breaches of workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

The hospitality industry was again overrepresented in contacts to the FWO in 2017-18, with 18% of workplace disputes recorded, a third of court actions and almost 40% of all anonymous reports, despite representing just seven per cent of the workforce.

Ms Parker said the hospitality sector employs a large proportion of vulnerable workers, including young workers, students and visa holders.

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