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Anger as Aussie worker docked $300 for mobile phone use

Employer hits back after being accused of wage theft.

$100 bills in employee wages; smartphone in use
An Aussie business is disputing a claim from a former employee that his wages were unfairly docked, saying he'd been warned about excessive mobile phone use. (Source: Getty)

An Australian small business has hit back after a former employee took to social media to ask whether it was legal for them to deduct nearly $300 from his wages for using his mobile phone during work hours.

In a Reddit post, user Zero726 showed members of the r/Australia community a snippet of his payslip, revealing he was penalized for more than five hours of "unauthorised" mobile phone use during his shift at Birdies Mini Golf and Sports Bar in Melbourne's Forest Hill on January 2.

"I work in hospitality and I have been deducted 5 hours of pay for 'mobile phone use'. I single-handedly worked at the place from open to close," the Redditor revealed.

Although he admitted to using his phone during his shift, he claimed he only used it when there were no customers around.

"Deduction for over 5 hours on mobile phone during shift (unauthorised)," a note on the bottom of the payslip reads, revealing the company had deducted a total of $298.65 from his pay.

Pay slip with deduction of $298.65 for unauthorised mobile phone use
An Australian hospitality worker had nearly $300 deducted from his wages for five hours of "unathorised" use of his mobile phone during his shift. (Source: Reddit)

'Brazen act'

The post, which had been upvoted 6,000 times, had received more than 1,000 comments in the hours after it was shared, with many offering advice to the disgruntled employee - who asked whether the wage deduction was legal.

"Absolutely not. They may be able give [sic] you a warning for unauthorised use of your phone during work hours (or reduce your shift in the future) but cannot deduct your pay because of it," someone answered.

"This is definitely a brazen act by your employer," commented another Redditor, who also directed the employee to the Fair Work Ombudsman's page on deducting pay and overpayments.

"They cannot deduct anything from your pay without a signed authorisation form. They cannot change a time card without your signature either," someone else advised.

In the comments, the employee later revealed he had not signed any document or agreement, and after receiving no answers to his questions about his pay being docked, quit his job.

Mini golf business responds

In an interview with news.com.au, a representative from Birdies Mini Golf and Sports Bar disputed the employee's version of events, saying he had been warned twice before about "excessive personal mobile phone use" but continued to use his phone.

"I warned him, 'If you keep doing this, I'm not going to pay you for the hours you're on the phone and doing personal things,'" the representative said. "He said, 'Yes, OK,' but it continued."

On the day in question, the representative said the employee did a nine-hour shift but was only paid for four, "which were the hours he was not on his phone". She claims she monitored the employee slacking off via cameras at the venue, and called him multiple times to put down his phone and tend to his duties, which extended beyond customer service.

Following a public outcry to pay the employee for the five additional hours of his shift, the employer told news.com.au she would not be doing so, and was willing to engage with Fair Work and hire lawyers to argue her case if necessary.

What the law says

When questioned about the legality of the act, a spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman directed Yahoo Finance Australia to information on the service's website about deductions. The site states that "an employer can only deduct money if the employee agrees in writing and it's principally for their benefit" and if "it's allowed under the employee's registered agreement and the employee agrees to it".

The spokesperson also advised that "any workers with concerns about their pay or entitlements are encouraged to contact us directly. They can visit www.fairwork.gov.au and send in an online enquiry".

Yahoo Finance also reached out to Birdies Mini Golf and Sports Bar for comment.

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