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The operator of a take-away food outlet in Melbourne who underpaid his staff over $46,000 admitted having no idea about minimum wage rates.

He was paying his employees mutually-agreed flat rates of $17 an hour, when they should have been getting at least $18.52 an hour under the Fast Food Industry Award.

Eighteen current and former employees of Mr Kitchen Box Hill were short-changed between December, 2013 and January this year.

The underpayments were identified during an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman following a request for assistance from a former employee.

The largest individual underpayments were $13,584 and $12,071.

International students from Taiwan and China were among those who were short-changed.

The business, located in the food court at the Box Hill Central Shopping Centre, is run by Chinese nationals through their company DM&G Pty Ltd.

The business  has signed an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman, focussed on ensuring ongoing behavioural change.

A second My Kitchen take-away food outlet has also signed a workplace pact with the Fair Work Ombudsman after it came to the Agency’s attention during investigations into DM&G.

Xin Long Pty Ltd, trading as Mr Kitchen The Pines, at Doncaster, admitted paying a flat hourly rate of $20, not paying annual leave entitlements, keeping limited time-and-wage records and failing to issue pay-slips to employees.

The company, also run by Taiwanese nationals, had no understanding of its obligations under Commonwealth workplace laws.

It has agreed to conduct a self-audit of its cash-in-hand payments to staff from July last year to the end of June this year and immediately rectify any underpayment of wages and entitlements.

Xin Long will also be required to engage an independent expert in 12 months to audit its compliance with workplace laws and report back to the Fair Work Ombudsman on the findings.

Both businesses are being required to undertake workplace relations training.

Source: Fair Work Ombudsman Media Release 19/8/2015