Australian hospitality spat: Worker furious after $300 taken from pay for using mobile phone, employer hits back

  • 17/01/2023

An Australian hospitality worker has caused a stir on social media after complaining their pay was deducted by AU$300 for using a cellphone at work.

The disgruntled employee posted a photo of their payslip to Reddit, showing they worked for a total of nine hours in one shift.

However, five hours of work, equivalent to AU$298.65  (or NZ$273.91), was deducted from their pay because they were "on [a] mobile phone during shift [sic]."

"I single-handedly worked at the place from open to close," the worker said in their post, adding that they only use their phone when "there are no customers". 

But the employee's boss has rubbished his claims, telling the university student received many warnings for his "excessive personal mobile phone use". 

Despite agreeing to limit his phone use, it continued, the boss told the outlet. 

"I paid him for four [hours], which were the hours he was not on his phone," the owner told 7News. 

The owner also told Aussie media they have received death threats since the university student's post went viral.

The disagreement sparked a wild debate on Reddit with over 1000 comments on the thread. 

Many of the commenters agreed with the worker, with one person saying it is "absolutely not [legal]" to deduct pay without the employee being told first. 

"They may be able to give you a warning" but they "cannot deduct your pay because of it," the user added. 

The employee, who has since quit, said they are trying to get the deduction reversed. 

Another Reddit user, who claimed they were a manager, said they would "call out a staff member" for excessive phone use but deducting pay for that reason is "hella illegal". They urged the ex-employee to call the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The employee posted a screenshot of their payslip to social media platform Reddit.
The employee posted a screenshot of their payslip to social media platform Reddit. Photo credit: Reddit

Another commenter was shocked the employer "didn't even have the balls to talk to you about it". 

Despite agreeing it's not illegal to use your phone at work, some Reddit commenters suggested it might still be against a company's workplace policies.

The Fair Work Ombudsman in Aussie said employers can only deduct money from wages in limited circumstances.

The employee must either agree to any deductions in writing or the employer must have the court's permission. But there's no guarantee the worker will get the money back.

Australia's Fair Work Commission said any orders it makes to restore lost pay are discretionary only.