30/03/2016 4:05 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Give Back Take-Away Pay: Workers Owed Half A Million As Investigated By The Fair Work Ombudsman

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Elevated View of a Tray With Fries, a Hamburger and Lemonade

More than 900 take-away food staff have been repaid $582,410 in unpaid wages after a wave of Fair Work Ombudsman spot checks.

A total of 223 businesses were implicated and Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said one business owed its employees more than $35,000.

He said underpayment wasn't necessarily malicious, and often came down to using the wrong award or other errors.

“Clearly, the take-away food sector, an industry comprised largely of small businesses, is grappling with the complexity of the IR system and few it seems are joining industry bodies to seek professional help and advice," Campbell said.

“Inspectors found some employers providing flat rates of pay for all hours worked, with many advising they had adopted this practice to simplify their payroll processes. In nearly one-third of cases, the hourly rate paid was not enough to cover hours attracting penalty rates and loadings, resulting in additional errors.”

Take-away pay backs by state

$154,609 for 269 employees in Victoria,

$132,433 for 218 employees in Queensland,

$99,527 for 140 employees in South Australia,

$84,517 for 120 employees in NSW,

$32,076 for 41 employees in the Northern Territory,

$30,245 for 54 employees in Western Australia,

$26,305 for 60 employees in Tasmania, and

$22,698 for 27 employees in the ACT.

Council of Small Business Australia Chief Executive officer Peter Strong said take-away shop owners more likely had young or 'vulnerable' employees that needed to be protected.

“Most small employers are not experts on workplace relations and are often more focused on having a good business with happy and well performing employees than their compliance obligations,” Strong said.

“These businesses often employ vulnerable people such as young workers or people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”