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The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise inspections of restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets in Melbourne’s inner west this week to ensure workers are being paid correctly.

About 30 businesses are being inspected in Footscray, West Footscray, Seddon, Yarraville, Newport and Williamstown.

Fair Work Inspectors are in the popular dining districts to assess compliance with workplace laws by speaking with business owners, managers and employees and requesting records.

The regulator is acting after receiving intelligence, including enquiries and anonymous reports, indicating potential breaches of workplace laws by businesses in the areas.

The inspections are part of a national food precincts program targeting employers that sponsor visa holders as these workers can be vulnerable to exploitation because of their dependence on their employer and limited understanding of their rights.

Inspectors are on alert for unlawfully low rates of pay; flat rates; ‘off the books’ employment arrangements; false or inaccurate records; unreasonable unpaid trials; adverse action such as threats or reduced hours for raising concerns about entitlements; inadequate breaks and more.

This week’s surprise inspections are part of a national program that has previously targeted food precincts in inner south Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, Darwin, Launceston and the Gold Coast.