Red Rooster Wodonga fined $5500 for child employment breaches, ordered to pay costs

Red Rooster Wodonga has been fined $5,500 and ordered to pay $4,000 in costs in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to 29 breaches of Victoria’s child employment laws.

Published:
Friday, 9 February 2024 at 6:00 am

Wage Inspectorate Victoria, the state’s child employment regulator, began investigating Wodonga Food Pty Ltd, trading as Red Rooster Wodonga, in August 2022 after receiving a tip-off from the community alleging the business was employing children under 15 years of age without the relevant permits. 

Today, Red Rooster Wodonga pleaded guilty to: 

  • employing 10 children under the age of 15 without a permit on 154 occasions 
  • failing to ensure the children were supervised by someone with a Working with Children Clearance on 154 occasions 
  • employing children for more hours than they are permitted to work on 12 occasions 
  • employing children later than 9pm on 3 occasions. 

The offences took place between 9 April 2022 and 24 September 2022. 

In sentencing, his Honour Magistrate Gattuso did not record a conviction, noting that while ignorance of the law is no excuse, the offending was inadvertent or negligent, not reckless or deliberately non-compliant. 

His Honour noted that the Red Rooster franchise provided the franchisee with a pack containing information that did not reflect Victoria’s child employment laws. He noted that while the onus is on franchisees to comply with the law, large corporate franchisors have a duty not to provide incorrect information. 

If not for the early guilty plea and cooperation with the Wage Inspectorate, his Honour said a fine of $10,000 with conviction would have been recorded. 

Quotes attributable to Robert Hortle Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria

“Red Rooster Wodonga is the type of business where many kids get their first job, so the community rightly expects it to have a strong focus on creating a safe workplace for kids, which is what child employment laws help ensure.”

“Businesses shouldn’t expect to get away with breaking child employment laws – community members look out for the wellbeing of kids and will tip us off when they see something of concern, particularly in close-knit regional towns.”

“The Magistrate referred to information provided by the franchisor which contained incorrect information about Victoria’s child employment laws. We’re looking to franchisors, particularly large, well-resourced corporations, to show leadership in this space and ensure their franchisees comply with child employment laws.” 

“The greatest risk of flouting child employment laws is a kid getting hurt in the workplace, but this outcome shows there are financial and reputational risks too.”

"The Wage Inspectorate took 11 businesses to court last year over alleged child employment breaches and we saw businesses convicted and fined up to $10,000.”

Background

Recently, Wage Inspectorate Victoria successfully prosecuted Cold Rock and Muffin Break franchisees.

A business usually needs a child employment permit or licence to employ someone under 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary. Employing a child without a permit or licence is a crime and may be penalised.

Workers under 15 must be supervised by someone who holds a valid Victorian Working with Children Clearance.

Child employment laws restrict when businesses can employ children and how long they can work: 

  • during a school term, children can be employed for a maximum of 3 hours a day and 12 hours a week
  • during school holidays, children can be employed up to 6 hours a day and 30 hours a week.
  • children can only work between 6am and 9pm.

Children must also receive a 30-minute rest break after every 3 hours of work.

A prosecution is the Wage Inspectorate’s most serious compliance tool and decisions to take legal action are made in line with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

More information about Victoria’s child employment laws is available on the Wage Inspectorate’s website or by calling 1800 287 287.

Updated