A series of alleged child labour law breaches by two franchisees employing teenagers have pitched the fast food brands into the media spotlight.
According to the ABC’s 7.30 report, two Victorian businesses, Red Rooster Wodonga and Cold Rock Shepparton, have been charged for their alleged failure to comply with the state’s strict child labour laws.
The Wodonga franchise faces 355 criminal charges which include the employment of 10 children under the age of 15 without a permit.
Under Victorian law, employers of children under 15 must obtain a permit from the Wage Inspectorate before starting work.
The franchisee is also charged with employing youngsters for longer hours than is permitted, and after 9pm; and failing to ensure supervision by an employee with Working with Children Clearance.
Each offence carries fine of more than $18,000
The ABC reports the Cold Rock franchisee faces 124 criminal charges relating to six children. It is alleged by Wage Inspectorate Victoria the business employed children for longer hours than is allowed, and later than 9pm; and failed to provide a 30 minute rest break for every three hours worked.
Red Rooster told 7.30 it was disappointed to learn of the charges. In a statement, the chicken chain said the alleged offences are a serious breach of the Franchising Code of Conduct and could lead to the termination of the franchisee’s contract.
Cold Rock’s head office declined to comment when contacted by 7.30.
Commissioner Robert Hortle told the 7.30 program the allegations have “extremely serious consequences”.
Each offence carries a fine of more than $18,000.
Muffin Break franchisee
These charges follow earlier allegations against a Muffin Break franchisee in Southland, last month.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria slapped 360 charges on the franchisee for employing three children aged under 15 without a permit on 111 occasions; failure to provide a rest break as required; and failure to ensure the appropriate working-with-children supervision of the young staff.
According to AAP, it is also alleged the business allowed children to work for longer than three hours a day during a school term and for more than six hours a day during school holidays.
The Muffin Break case has been listed for the Melbourne magistrates court on 16 June. Red Rooster Wodonga faces Melbourne Magistrates Court in May; Cold Rock Shepparton will appear before the court in June.
Employing children aged under 15 in Victoria
From 1 July 2023, a child employment licensing system will replace the existing permit system in Victoria and employers will be able to employ multiple children under one licence.
Existing child employment permits will remain valid after 1 July 2023.
Licences will be free, and applications can be made through the Wage Inspectorate Victoria website from 1 July.