A court has slammed Coles for claiming that nearly $700k in unpaid long-service leave entitlements was a “mere error”.
In the first prosecution under Victoria’s Long Service Leave Act, the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court fined Coles $50k and ordered it to pay $15k in costs for its “systemic failure” to ensure employees received their full entitlements.
Coles pleaded guilty to seven criminal charges filed by the Wage Inspectorate, conceding it underpaid 24 former employees $53,710 between October 2019 and April 2020.
The Wage Inspectorate’s investigation subsequently identified a wider cohort of 4,096 employees who were collectively underpaid nearly $700k.
Magistrate Justin Foster said the underpayments occurred because Coles had “no proper auditing processes” to check it was paying workers correctly and had failed to ensure its enterprise agreement complied with the new legislation. He said the investigation made Coles “turn proper attention” to the matter, revealing the true extent of the problem.
Magistrate Foster rejected that the underpayments were an error, saying this excuse went to the “very guts of the type of offending”.
Wage Inspectorate Commissioner Robert Hortle said there was no excuse for Coles’ non-compliance, particularly given its access to HR and legal functions. “We expect them to get it right.”
The ruling was delivered verbally and not available online.
Long Service Leave courses are available here.