The Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Association of NSW (ParaQuad) has back-paid staff more than $705,000 and entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
ParaQuad is a large charity employing about 334 staff in the disability services sector, providing specialist clinical services, personal care, telehealth and supported accommodation to people with paralysis and associated health conditions in NSW, the Northern Territory and Queensland.
The organisation self-reported underpayments to the FWO in November 2020.
Prompted by a pay query, ParaQuad identified underpayments of a forklift allowance under the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW Collective Agreement 2009-2012. Following this issue being identified, its board endorsed a comprehensive review of employee entitlements relating to 1,137 current and former staff.
External consultants who conducted the review found minimum pay rates were not applied correctly for employees covered by the Collective Agreement; Nurses Award 2010; Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010; Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010; and the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said an EU was appropriate as ParaQuad had shown a clear commitment to rectifying all underpayments and to ensuring future compliance.
“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, ParaQuad has committed to implementing stringent measures to protect the rights of its workforce. These measures include engaging an independent auditor to conduct two audits of its compliance with workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.
“This matter demonstrates how important it is for employers to regularly check their payroll and be aware of every lawful entitlement they must pay their employees. Any employer who needs assistance meeting their lawful obligations should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.”
The employees were underpaid minimum wage rates, annual leave and leave loading pay, casual loading, overtime and various allowances. ParaQuad also failed to keep all required employee records.
Underpaid workers included full-time, part-time and casual employees engaged as personal care assistants, registered nurses, warehouse operators and laundry officers. They worked in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Darwin.
In total, 336 ParaQuad employees were underpaid $762,682.09, inclusive of interest and superannuation, between July 2014 and November 2020. Individual underpayments were up to $67,199.
ParaQuad has made backpayments of $705,470.91, including interest and superannuation, to 267 current and former employees. ParaQuad has taken steps to make the remaining backpayments totalling $57,211.18 to 69 former employees. The EU requires backpayments to all located employees to be completed by 17 December 2021.
Under the EU, ParaQuad must pay for two independent audits in the next 12 months to verify compliance, and ensure staff responsible for workplace relations and payroll have the necessary training and experience. The organisation must also publish a notice about its breaches on its website.