Aged care operator Uniting NSW and ACT has admitted to underpaying more than 9500 employees a total of $3.36 million between 2013 and 2019, with payments ranging from under $1 to more than $11,000.
Uniting self-reported the underpayment after conducting a review when it received complaints from a number of employees, many of who were frontline carers and community and disability services workers.
The underpayments resulted from a failure to pay shift workers an extra week of annual leave that they were entitled to each year, as well as errors in laundry, uniform and vehicle allowances.
Laundry and uniform allowance underpayments impacted approximately 9300 current and former employees to the value of $1.7 million, with an average of $225, said Uniting in a statement.
Vehicle allowance underpayments affected 1300 employees with a total of $175,000.
Uniting operates three aged care facilities in the ACT – two in Weston and one in Gordon – employing 870 Canberrans. The organisation also runs youth, family and disability support services.
All current employees have been fully reimbursed for vehicle allowances while impacted shift workers have been given a range of options to remedy the error, including the ability to ‘cash out’ excess leave.
“We are taking steps to ensure these errors do not take place again by reviewing our controls, systems and procedures,” said a Uniting spokesperson.
“We apologise for the errors and any impact they may have had on our people.”
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said Uniting has entered into an enforceable undertaking (EU) which requires it to pay any outstanding amounts to former employees by 15 August, 2020, on top of a range of other obligations to ensure future compliance.
Uniting must fund an independent organisation to operate a hotline for the next four months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.
The organisation is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches and apologise to workers.
“The enforceable undertaking commits the aged care operator to stringent measures to protect its employees,” said Ms Parker.
“This includes engaging, at its own cost, an expert auditing firm to conduct an independent assessment of the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance with workplace laws during the next two years.
“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that if you do not prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and face not only a massive administrative exercise calculating underpayments but the cost of a significant back-payment bill.”
Past and current employees can contact Uniting regarding their entitlements on 1300 751 145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employers and employees can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free workplace advice.