Red Rooster and Cold Rock hit with child labour charges

·3-min read
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Two well-known fast-food businesses in Victoria face big fines if found guilty of hundreds of charges for allegedly breaking child labour laws.

Red Rooster in Wodonga has been hit with 355 criminal charges and ice cream chain Cold Rock in Shepparton faces 124 criminal charges, following a crackdown by the child employment watchdog.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria alleges both businesses breached the Child Employment Act on various occasions, including for employing children for more hours than they were allowed to work.

Each faces fines of up to $20,000 per breach.

It has been claimed the Wodonga Red Rooster also employed several children under the age of 15 without the appropriate permit on nearly 170 occasions.

The fast-food chicken business also allegedly failed to ensure staff supervising child employees had a Working with Children Clearance.

Business Wodonga chief executive Graham Jenkin said he was disappointed to hear of the alleged breaches and noted the Red Rooster was not a part of the member organisation.

"There is no excuse for failing to comply with labour laws, especially where children are involved," Mr Jenkin said.

"This is not the norm that we see within our Wodonga business community."

The case against the business was administratively adjourned by the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday to a later date.

A spokesman for Red Rooster said it was reviewing its agreement with the franchisee.

"We are very disappointed to learn of these charges," he said.

"The details of this matter represent a serious breach of our policies and in accordance with the franchising code of conduct, may lead to the termination of the franchisee's contract."

Cold Rock in Shepparton is accused of failing to provide sufficient breaks of at least 30 minutes every three hours and employing children later than 9pm.

Its case is due in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on June 1.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria commissioner Robert Hortle said the charges would put other businesses on notice, particularly those in regional areas.

"These are the type of businesses where many kids get their first job, so people rightly expect them to have a strong focus on creating a safe workplace for kids, which is what child employment laws help ensure," he said.

Last month, a Melbourne Muffin Break business was hit with 360 charges for multiple breaches, including failure to provide breaks and obtain necessary permits.

The Wage Inspectorate has started 10 child employment prosecutions in the past 18 months and prosecuted five employers for breaches since 2020.

Victoria's child labour laws restrict when businesses can employ children and for how long they can work.

Children must receive a 30-minute rest break after every three hours and cannot work past 9pm.

Employees under 15 must be supervised by someone who holds a valid employee Victorian Working with Children Check.

In Victoria, there is no minimum age for working in a family business or in entertainment and advertising.

But a child must be aged at least 11 to do delivery work and 13 to do other types of labour, such as retail or hospitality.

An employer must get a permit before they hire someone under 15, whether the work is paid or voluntary.

From July 1, a child employment licensing system will replace the existing permit arrangement enabling employers to hire multiple children under one licence.

AAP contacted Cold Rock for comment.