A Red Rooster franchise has been slapped with 355 charges by Victoria’s child employment watchdog.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria has accused the Wodonga store of employing 10 children under the age of 15 without a permit on 168 occasions.
Wodonga Food Pty Ltd, trading as Red Rooster Wodonga, further allegedly employed children past 9pm and for more hours than they were allowed to work.
The business is further accused of failing to ensure they were supervised by someone with a working with children clearance.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria Commissioner Robert Hortle said many children got their first job at “household names” such as Red Rooster.
“People rightly expect them to have a strong focus on creating a safe workplace for kids,” he said.
“Kids under 15 don’t always recognise risks in the workplace and some don’t feel able to speak up when they feel unsafe.
“Child employment laws help ensure the employer understands the risks and puts measures in place to keep young staff safe.”
If convicted, the business faces a maximum fine of $18,000 per count.
In a statement, a spokesman for Red Rooster said the company was “very disappointed” to learn of the charges.
“The matter is still before the court. However, the details of this (alleged) matter represent a serious breach of our policies,” the spokesman said.
“In accordance with the franchising code of conduct, (if proven it) may lead to the termination of the franchisee’s contract.”
The Inspectorate has filed 10 criminal prosecutions against businesses for alleged breaches of child employment laws since the start of 2022.
These include a Cold Rock Ice Creamery franchise in Shepparton for alleged breaches against six children and a Muffin Break franchise in one of Melbourne’s biggest shopping centres for alleged breaches against three children.
Under Victorian law, businesses are allowed to employ children under 15 if they obtain a permit from the Inspectorate beforehand.
They must be supervised by someone with appropriate clearance, working a maximum of three hours a day and 12 hours per week during a school term or six hours a day and 30 per week during school holidays.