Earlier this week the Fair Work ombudsman alleged the company behind the Meatball and Wine bar was guilty of underpaying its staff.

Now Fair Work inspectors have investigated more than 50 restaurants, bars and cafes in the popular dining areas of Carlton, Brunswick and Fitzroy North, as well as on Swanston Street.

Over the past two days inspectors have conducted on-site audits to ensure businesses are meeting their workplace requirements, specifically looking at timesheets and wage records.

The move comes after information was received suggesting some businesses in these areas were paying flat rates to staff, sometimes below minimum wage, and that there have been potential record-keeping breaches.

In a statement Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it is aware of the large number of young and international workers that businesses in these areas employ. These types of employees are often the first to face exploitation due to a lack of experience and awareness of their work-place rights.

“This vulnerability may be compounded in highly competitive and price-driven markets, such as popular restaurant and bar-strips, where some operators might attempt to gain an unfair advantage by cost-cutting through the underpayment of wages.”

Ms James also issued a warning to any employers: refusal to cooperate will not be tolerated.

In separate cases earlier in the year, celebrity chefs Adriano Zumbo and George Calombaris were also found by Fair Work to be underpaying their staff.

Fair Work hopes these spot-checks will create a better environment for employers and workers. For any businesses seeking help, Fair Work inspectors will be on-hand to provide advice or assistance.

This article was amended on Friday August 25 to reflect that the investigation into the underpayment of staff by the Meatball and Wine Bar was lead by the Fair Work Ombudsman, not the Commission

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