One of Australia’s most recognised charities has admitted to underpaying more than 9,000 employees to the tune of $3.36 million.
The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW), which runs more than 70 residential aged care and other facilities in NSW and ACT, is being forced to back-pay 9,561 workers after self-reporting the underpayments which occurred between 2013 and 2019.
The individual amounts some workers were underpaid ranged from less than $1 to more than $11,000.
Uniting discovered the underpayments after conducting a review following a series of complaints from several employees, many of whom were front-line carers such as community or disability service workers.
The charity made a series of errors in providing laundry, uniform and vehicle allowances, and also didn’t provide shift workers an extra week of annual leave that they should have been entitled to every year.
The charity has entered into an enforceable undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), a legally binding agreement that forces an employer to comply with the law in lieu of being taken to court.
According to the FWO, most workers have already been back-paid, but the EU will require workers to pay workers back by 15 August this year, as well as comply with other obligations.
Uniting will also have to fund and operate a hotline for the next four months that workers can use to make enquiries about their entitlements, underpayments or other workplace concerns.
The charity will also have to display public workplace and online notices detailing its breaches, and apologise to workers.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker praised the charity for its compliance with the investigation.
“Uniting demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments owed to its workers,” she said.
Under the EU, the charity will have to conduct an external audit to independently assess its rectification program for the next two years.
“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that if you don’t 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,” she said.
“Any employers who need help meeting their lawful workplace obligations should contact us.”
In a statement, Uniting NSW.ACT said it had “made some errors” around leave and payments.
“We regret and apologise for the errors and any impact they may have had on our people,” it said.
Uniting’s statement counts every instance of underpayment, rather than the number of affected staff, which is represented in the FWO’s statement.
Nearly 13,000 instances of underpayment was recorded across leave, uniform and laundry and vehicle allowance underpayments amounting to $3.36 million. Uniting said it is offering a range of remediation options.
You can make tips to Fair Work via 13 13 94 or visit their website at fairwork.gov.au.
You can also make an anonymous report to Fair Work through their website.
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