Aged and veteran services organisation RSL LifeCare Limited has backpaid almost 4000 staff in NSW and the ACT after more than $5 million in underpayments was discovered.
The not-for-profit organisation, which is affiliated with RSL NSW, notified the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) about the underpayments in 2021 following an internal review while it transitioned to a new human resources and payroll system.
The underpaid employees were in nursing and management roles at aged care facilities and in-home care programs, and included full-time, part-time and casual workers across 11 years.
According to the FWO, the underpayments occurred because of “fundamental payroll and rostering system errors”, including incorrect system set-up and incorrect pay rules being entered.
“The majority of the underpayments involved RSL LifeCare failing to pay overtime rates in a range of situations where they needed to be paid, such as when employees had not had sufficient breaks between shifts and when part-time employees performed work on rostered days off but had otherwise worked less than 76 hours in a fortnight,” an FWO statement said.
“Another significant cause of the underpayments was RSL LifeCare’s failure to provide shift workers with an extra week of annual leave they were entitled to.
“Some employees were also underpaid weekend penalty rates.”
RSL LifeCare has backpaid more than $5.1m, including superannuation and interest, to more than 3591 current and former employees.
Individual payments range from less than $1 to more than $76,000.
More than $4.7 million in backpayments were for NSW workers, with more than $525,000 to ACT workers.
The employees worked in facilities across Canberra, Sydney and regional NSW, including Ballina, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Condobolin, Dubbo, Dungog, Eden, Grafton, Lismore, Maitland, Merimbula, Narrandera, Newcastle, Nowra, Picton, Port Macquarie, Thirlmere, Tura Beach and Wagga Wagga, between 2010 and 2021.
The organisation has also entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the FWO.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said RSL LifeCare had demonstrated a “strong commitment” to rectifying the underpayments, so an EU was appropriate.
“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, RSL LifeCare has committed to implementing stringent measures to ensure workers are paid correctly,” she said.
”These measures include engaging, at the company’s own cost, audits of its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years.
“This matter demonstrates how important it is for employers to place a high priority on their workplace obligations and ensure that their systems and processes support full compliance.
“In this matter, fundamental shortcomings in RSL LifeCare’s payroll and rostering system led to long-term breaches of its own enterprise agreements and a substantial backpayment bill.”
Under the EU, RSL LifeCare is also required to provide FWO with evidence of systems and processes it has put in place to ensure future compliance, commission an independent organisation to operate a hotline for employees to enquire about their wages and entitlements, and commission workplace relations training for human resources, payroll and rostering staff.
A small amount of entitlements is still owed to some workers who RSL LifeCare hasn’t been able to locate.
The outstanding underpayments are required to be rectified by April 2023 under the EU.
RSL LifeCare was contacted for comment.
Employers and employees can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.