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The realities of working in hospitality

The realities of working in hospitality

Insecure work, wage theft and harassment are some of the unfortunate realities faced by hospitality workers.

Over 40% of Australian workers are caught in insecure work, but the numbers are much worse in hospitality: up to 79% of hospitality workers are caught in insecure work in some states. 

Every few weeks a hospitality employer is exposed for stealing wages, underpaying super or exploiting vulnerable workers.

And a recent United Voice survey revealed that 89% of female hospitality workers experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.


Insecure work

A living wage and the ability to plan for the future are fundamental to living a good life, and secure employment is a key part of that. Unfortunately for many Australian workers - especially those in hospitality - secure work is increasingly rare, with casual and contract work becoming increasingly common.

Across Australia over 40% of workers are in insecure work, but in hospitality the numbers are much worse - up to 79% of hospitality workers are in insecure work in some states.

This rate of insecure work is higher than almost any other large industry.

This means workers in hospitality often experience challenges associated with insecure work:

  • unpredictable and fluctuating pay
  • limited or no access to paid leave
  • irregular and unpredictable working hours
  • uncertainty over the length of their employment
  • exclusion from training opportunities
  • limited salary or career progression
  • inferior rights and entitlements
  • fear of losing shifts if they speak up

That's why it's really important for casual members to join and become Union members too, because it's only by standing together can we make sure these problems are resolved.

Wage Theft

It's no secret that wage theft is rampant in the hospitality sector.

Every few weeks a new hospitality employer is caught out stealing wages, underpaying super or exploiting vulnerable workers.

From big-name celebrity chefs, to little store's around the corner - wage theft in the hospitality industry is rampant.

Management do not have the right to request unpaid overtime, and workers have the right to be compensated accordingly.

What to do if you think you’ve been underpaid:

Start by ensuring you’re keeping a record of your hours and your pay. The Fair Work Ombudsman has just released an app you can use available from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website (

Request your ‘time and wages record’ (Payslips) from your employer for the period of your employment during which you think you’ve been underpaid. Employers are required to keep records for 7 years and a required to provide them when you request them. If your employer refuses or says they don’t have records contact the Member Support Team.

If you are able to get records and you have recorded your own hours and pay, check the Modern Award or Agreement under which you are employed. You can contact the Member Support Team for information on which Award or Agreement you are employed.

Look at the rate of pay you should be paid in your Award or Agreement including the penalty rates, casual rates or overtime rates which apply to you. If you have trouble working out what rates apply to you, Member Support can help.

Try to put together a document which shows what you have been paid vs what you should have been paid.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to undertake steps 3 to 5, contact the Member Support team for assistance.

If you can prove you have been underpaid, United Voice can assist you with making a demand that your employer should pay you the money including assisting you with a court process to recover the money if required.

Harrasment at work - Respect is the Rule.

Respect is the Rule is a United Voice campaign supporting hospitality workers in their fight to eliminate sexual harassment in their workplace.

Statistics from a United Voice survey show that 89% of female hospitality workers questioned have experienced some form of sexual harassment whilst at work, with 19% of those surveyed having been sexually assaulted.

A staggering 48% of those surveyed believe their management do not take the issue seriously.

Sexual harassment does not need to be physical or obvious and it does not need to happen in front of people, or even in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is regarded as any unwelcome sexual action or behaviour which makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened, offended or humiliated.

It can happen to anyone, by anyone and can be ongoing or an isolated incident .

Hospitality members know all too well of sexual harassment in workplaces and are speaking up and making these issues heard.

Hospitality member of 6 years Jo said people don’t think of the how comments will affect workers.

“People need to actually think about what they are saying, I think people just think we are just there to serve them,”

“I have feelings and sexual harassment is not alright, ever.” She said.

Jo said that she feels helpless watching it happen to other people.

“I feel so angry, yet so helpless when it happens to others…I speak up, but not everyone does,”

“Please don’t be afraid to go to someone about this, you need to talk to someone you feel comfortable with.” She said.

While it can be a tough issue to talk about, United Voice members are encouraged to speak up about sexual harassment they have experienced in the workplace.

If you are a Union member who has been made to feel uncomfortable at work and need to speak to someone about it, contact the Member Support Team on 9388 5400.