Optus is set to reimburse over $7.8 million to rectify underpayments for its retail workforce across Australia, following an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
This compensation will be disbursed by Optus Retailco, which oversees Optus stores nationwide and operates as a subsidiary of telecommunications giant Singtel Optus.
The initiative stems from Optus voluntarily disclosing the underpayment issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman in April 2021, subsequent to an internal audit.
The affected employees, comprising retail consultants and store managers, were shortchanged between January 2014 and March 2020 due to deficiencies in payroll systems, time tracking mechanisms, HR procedures, and governance practices.
The discrepancies led to various entitlements not being met under the Optus Retail Agreement 2013, the General Retail Industry Award 2010, and the General Retail Industry Award 2020.
Instances included part-time and casual employees receiving less than the minimum wage and consultants not being compensated for work performed beyond their scheduled hours.
The underpaid entitlements encompassed base wages, weekend and public holiday loadings, meal allowances, overtime rates, penalty rates for no breaks, and annual and personal leave allocations.
Initial repayments by Optus Retail will cover 3,744 current and former employees, totaling over $7.8 million, with $5.4 million designated for wages and entitlements and over $3.4 million for superannuation and accrued interest.
The majority of affected employees have already received reimbursements, with Optus obligated under the enforceable undertaking (EU) to ensure all affected staff are duly compensated.
Reimbursements vary from $11 to approximately $34,000, averaging around $2,100 per employee.
Optus Retail is mandated to review wage payments and conduct reconciliations for the period between January 2020 and July 2023, with any identified underpayments to be rectified.
Additionally, the company is required to implement rigorous measures to ensure compliance with workplace laws, including setting up a helpline for current and former employees, issuing apology letters to underpaid staff, and providing assurance of compliance to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Furthermore, Optus Retail must make a contrition payment of $450,000 to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund as part of the EU.