The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has back-paid more than 1800 current and former staff $12 million in wages they were entitled to.
As part of an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the ABC has paid $11.9 million owed to 1828 workers, all of whom were employed casually.
An investigation revealed that between October 2012 and February 2019 a total of 1907 ABC employees were underpaid $12,029,038.
The discrepancy between actual earnings and entitlements arose when Fair Work inspectors identified that some casual workers were receiving flat rate pay which did not take into account overtime, penalty rates and some allowances.
Workers affected included camera operators, make-up artists, graphic designers, directors, producers, reporters and presenters.
Underpayments to workers ranged from as little as $7 to as much as $180,000.
The ABC, in repaying the entitlements, also added 5.25 per cent interest on all back payments and 5.25 per cent interest on superannuation.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said even though the ABC self-reported the underpayments to the FWO, it will also make a contrition payment of $600,000 – a similar fine that may have been handed down in a civil court.
“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, the ABC has committed to improving workplace practices across its whole workforce and will invest significantly in improved systems and processes, which will benefit its current and future employees,” Ms Parker said.
“The ABC will also engage and pay for an independent expert, approved by the FWO, to conduct annual audits of its workplace compliance for the next three years. In addition, the ABC must implement an electronic record-keeping and rostering system, and train payroll and HR staff.”
Ms Parker said the FWO did not grant the ABC any special privileges because of its status in being funded by the taxpayer.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman saw no justification in treating a public statutory company differently from any private sector company – all employers must comply with Australia’s workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.
“Contrition payments provide a deterrent to non-compliance, which is commensurate with a penalty that a court might impose, but without the cost and delay of drawn out litigations.”
Full remediation to all affected workers will be made by July 31 this year.
The ABC told 9News.com.au that the error was unintentional and the payment to staff has already been budgeted for.
“As previously stated, the ABC has consulted with the Fair Work Ombudsman to reach an agreement on the pay issue and has signed an Enforceable Undertaking,” the ABC said.
“The ABC has apologised to staff for this unintentional error. A contrition payment will be made as a result of the negotiations with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
“This payment has been budgeted in the current financial year and will have no impact on the requirement to find ongoing savings.”