The Iconic, an online fashion and lifestyle retailer in Australia, has recently faced significant challenges related to payroll underpayments. Following an upgrade of their payroll and HR systems, the company uncovered nearly $201,000 in additional underpayments, on top of the more than $1 million underpaid to hundreds of casual staff between 2013 and 2019. This discovery led to back-paying 800 current and former staff, after audits found payroll errors totalling $1.38 million.
The recent findings revealed that 551 casual staff were underpaid a total of $200,937 in wages, interest, superannuation, and lost earnings from 2020 to 2023. Additionally, the company underwent a significant restructuring, resulting in the redundancy of 116 roles in 2023.
Despite these challenges, The Iconic remains a part of the profitable Global Fashion Group, although it has not yet turned a profit in Australia.
Learnings and Recommendations
Importance of Accurate Payroll Systems: The Iconic’s issues highlight the critical need for accurate and reliable payroll systems. Companies should invest in robust payroll and HR software that can adapt to changing regulations and business needs.
Regular Audits and Compliance Checks: Regular audits, both internal and external, are vital for identifying payroll discrepancies. Engaging independent auditors, as The Iconic did, can help in identifying and rectifying underpayments promptly.
Transparent Communication and Remediation: In response to the underpayments, The Iconic self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman, set up a dedicated team for affected staff, and is in the final stages of remediation. Companies should follow this example by maintaining transparency with affected employees and swiftly taking corrective actions.
Cultural Change: The allegations of a culture not receptive to employee concerns about pay and conditions at The Iconic suggest a need for cultural change within organisations. Creating an open, inclusive, and responsive work culture is crucial for employee satisfaction and retention.
The Iconic’s experience with payroll underpayments serves as a crucial lesson for businesses on the importance of accurate payroll systems, regular compliance checks, transparent communication, cultural change, and financial sustainability. These elements are essential not only for legal compliance but also for maintaining a positive reputation and employee trust. As the retail landscape evolves, companies must prioritize these areas to ensure long-term success and stability.