Cafe owner accused of staff rip-off

The West Australian on July 7, 2016

Han’s Cafes run by one of the original founders has been accused of underpaying 100 workers by tens of thousands of dollars over several weeks.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has alleged in the Federal Court that its investigation of four of the chain’s 17 cafes found the workers were not paid appropriate penalties or loadings, such as weekend or overtime rates, apart from the occasional public holiday.

A statement from the ombudsman alleges the workers were short changed about $30,000 the minimum hourly rate alone.

The four restaurants that were investigated – Subiaco, Hillarys, Midland and Forrest Chase in the city – were all controlled at the time by Tram Hoang Han, who founded the franchise with husband Ian.

Ms Han, who met her husband at a Thai refugee camp, still owns the franchise company for the 17 restaurants and at least two of the cafes, which helped her buy her $2.85 million mansion in Applecross in 2004. It is believed Mr Han now lives in Asia.

It is not clear how much involvement Ms Han has in the other cafes in the network through her franchise company.

Ombudsman Natalie James said all Han’s café’s will now be investigated.

Ms Han agreed to backpay $30,000 to the mostly-migrant workers.

The Ombudsman cannot pursue any other money owing to workers, or take action for the underpayment, claiming it does not have enough evidence. It claimed in court that Ms Han had conceded to keeping records for only two to four weeks, instead of the seven years required by law.

Both Ms Han and the company face fines for multiple record keeping contraventions, with penalties worth up to $5,100 per breach for Ms Han and up to $25,500 per breach for the company.

The Liberal Party recently promised to strengthen record keeping penalties while Labor wants to boost fines for underpaying workers to up to $1 million.