Queensland water service provider Sunwater is back-paying employees more than $2 million and has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Queensland Government owned organisation self-reported to the regulator last year that it had identified underpayments during an annual remuneration review for employees on individual contracts. The affected employees were mainly technical specialists and managers.
The underpayments were the result of Sunwater failing to ensure its employees on individual contracts received all entitlements payable under the enterprise agreements covering its workforce, having incorrectly assumed these employees were excluded from coverage.
This resulted in employees on individual contracts being underpaid base salaries, annual leave loading, on-call and relocation allowance, superannuation and accrued time-off-in-lieu. Record-keeping laws were also breached.
Sunwater has so far back-paid 73 workers a total of more than $2.3 million, which includes interest and superannuation, who were underpaid between 2006 and 2020. Individual underpayments range from less than $60 to more than $224,000.
While Sunwater has already back-paid the majority of workers, the EU requires the organisation to pay any outstanding amounts to former employees by 31 October this year.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an Enforceable Undertaking was appropriate as the organisation had cooperated with the investigation.
“Sunwater has demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying underpayments, and the Enforceable Undertaking commits the company to stringent measures to protect its workforce. This includes engaging an expert auditing firm to conduct an independent assessment of the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance over the next two years,” Ms Parker said.
“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that they must prioritise workplace compliance. Any employers who need help meeting their lawful workplace obligations should contact us.”
Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Sunwater will make a contrition payment into the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund. The size of the contrition payment will be 4.5 per cent of the total underpayment figure and is estimated to be more than $100,000.
The public organisation must fund an independent organisation to operate a Hotline for the next 12 months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.
Sunwater is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches.