Business with "no idea" about minimum pay rates now faces $46,000 unpaid wages bill

The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced that 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 2015.

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

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.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said Fair Work inspectors do not believe the underpayments were deliberate, but rather the result of the employers' ignorance of workplace laws.

Ms James says DM&G has co-operated with the Agency and expressed a strong desire to ensure it fully complies with its workplace obligations in future.

It has signed an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman, which Ms James said is focused 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 2014 to the end of June 2015 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 and register with the Fair Work Ombudsman's online tool My Account.

Ms James said Fair Work inspectors are increasingly finding employers from non-English speaking backgrounds who have no understanding of their workplace obligations or the seriousness of their non-compliant behaviour.

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