Brisbane café taken to court after allegedly paying workers in food and drink

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal action against a Brisbane café after its operators allegedly paid some staff in food and drink.

Timi Trading Pty Ltd, which operates Café 63 Chermside at Westfield Chermside, will go before the Federal Circuit Court after allegedly partially paying 11 employees in meals, desserts and drinks during two periods between August 2017 and January 2018.

Most of the affected workers were visa holders, including seven juniors aged under 21, who worked as cooks, kitchen attendants and food and beverage attendants.


Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that inspectors investigated after receiving underpayment allegations.

“All employees in Australia are entitled to be paid the minimum pay rates that apply to their positions – in money, not food. If we consider that employers are breaching their lawful obligation, we will take enforcement action so employees receive what they are entitled to.”

“Businesses should be aware that we are cracking down on the underpayment of vulnerable workers in the fast food, restaurant and café sector as a priority. Any worker with concerns about their pay or entitlements, should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman,” Ms Parker said.

It is alleged the IFA ‘allowances’ included employees being allowed food and drink up to the value of $42 per day when working, including $20 in meals, $7 in desserts and $15 in drinks.

The FWO alleges that the operators’ conduct also breached workplace laws by failing to ensure the IFAs passed the better-off-overall test (which requires employers to ensure employees are better off overall under an IFA than under the relevant Award) and failing to detail in the IFAs how each individual was better off overall under the IFA.

Timi Trading allegedly also breached workplace laws by providing the FWO with false and misleading records, failing to make and keep proper records and agreements, and failing to pay one employee for her absence on a public holiday.

The alleged record-keeping failures have prevented FWO from calculating back-payments.

They are facing maximum penalties per breach of up to $63,000, while the operators themselves face maximum penalties per breach of up to $12,600.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on 21 February, 2020.