COVID-19 has certainly been dominating the news in the past few weeks (for good reason) but have you found yourself wondering what the latest is on pre-COVID industry issues like wage theft and mental health? Us too, so we’ve rounded up the latest progress on these industry issues:
What’s happening with Wage Theft?
Back in June, the Victorian Parliament passed the Wage Theft Bill 2020. This means, for the first time, there will be criminal penalties including jail time for employers when they underpay their staff.
Then, in July, the Queensland government also introduced a bill to make wage theft illegal, following findings that a quarter of the state’s workers are being either unpaid or underpaid.
Victoria and Queensland might not be alone in this legislation soon, as the Federal Government and various other state governments are discussing the idea of also criminalising underpayments. As it stands employers still face fines (but not jail time) for breaching provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (outside of Victoria and Queensland).
Hospo Voice, a union representing workers in the hospitality industry, is urging the NSW government to follow Victoria and Queensland but they’ve been met with some complications. For example, criminalising wage theft at a state level could potentially make industrial laws more complex and in some cases conflict with the federal process. Some lawyers have raised concerns that the Victorian and Queensland laws could result in some offences being charged twice.
The COVID-19 pandemic also complicates matters as small businesses have voiced concerns that they need to be protected in the post-COVID economic recovery.
Unfortunately, there are too many cases of wage theft in the hospitality sector as it is usually staffed by a young, casual and migrant workforce who can sometimes be taken advantage of. Progress is being made but if you feel you’ve been underpaid, the Fair Work Ombudsman offers free information on Australia’s workplace rights and rules. Call 13 13 94 or visit their website.
Mental Health in the Foodservice Sector
Mental health has long been an issue within the foodservice industry. But, in the past few years, the tragic deaths of high-profile chefs has brought the issue to the forefront of industry discussion. The pandemic and lockdown laws have impacted everyone financially, but it’s also had an especially terrible effect on the foodservice industry.
Now more than ever, the mental health of hospitality workers is something that we need to look at. We have no association with the White Jacket Effect, but absolutely love what they do and think it’s worth highlighting. The organisation has a vision to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those in the hospitality industry – you may have seen the jackets before, but you can also view them here on their website.
Outside of organisations like The White Jacket Effect, The Australian Government has promised to provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, these issues will continue to affect those working in the foodservice sector regardless of the current lockdown laws, restrictions and COVID-19 case numbers. But there are positive steps being made in both cases, and the hospitality industry can be optimistic that as the pandemic begins to subside, work can return in a way that is fairer and safer for all.