The operator of the Uniting aged care homes has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman and is back-paying employees more than $3.3 million.
Uniting identified the underpayments when it conducted a review after receiving complaints from a number of its employees.
The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW) is a registered charity which runs more than 70 residential aged care facilities as well as other community services under the Uniting brand in NSW and the ACT.
Uniting self-reported that it underpaid more than 9000 employees.
Many of the affected employees worked as front line carers and as community and disability services workers in NSW and ACT. They were covered by a number of different Enterprise Agreements.
Uniting is back-paying 9561 workers a total of $3.36 million, which includes interest, for underpayments that occurred between 2013 and 2019. Individual underpayments range from less than $1 to more than $11,000.
The underpayments occurred as a result of errors made by Uniting in providing laundry, uniform and vehicle allowances as well as failing to provide shift workers an extra week of annual leave they were entitled to each year.
Even though Uniting has already back-paid the majority of workers, the Enforceable Undertaking requires the organisation to pay any outstanding amounts to former employees by 15 August 2020, as well as a range of other obligations to ensure future compliance.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an Enforceable Undertaking was appropriate as the organisation had cooperated with the investigation.
“Uniting demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments owed to its workers.
“The Enforceable Undertaking commits the aged care operator to stringent measures to protect its employees.”
Parker said this includes engaging, at its own cost, an expert auditing firm to conduct an independent assessment of the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years.
“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and face not only a massive administrative exercise calculating underpayments but the cost of a significant back-payment bill.
“Any employers who need help meeting their lawful workplace obligations should contact us.”
Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Uniting must also fund an independent organisation to operate a Hotline for the next four months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.
Uniting is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches and apologise to workers.