Hardware giant Bunnings has blamed a coding error in its payroll system for underpaying superannuation to a number of its staff for the past nine years.
The error affects part-time workers in its Australian stores who worked more than their annual contracted hours in the 2011 financial year onwards, which “in most cases” only affected superannuation payments from May or June in the relevant year.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald understands that, excluding compensation, most affected workers are owed less than $200 in unpaid super.
Bunnings would not reveal the full amount it had underpaid its workers, saying it was undertaking a “reconciliation” and would make a back payment plus compensation to affected employees in four to six weeks.
In a statement, Bunnings human resources director Jacqui Coombes said the retailer was “very sorry” for the underpayment.
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“We understand the importance of ensuring our team members are paid everything they are entitled to in full and on time – in this case, whilst inadvertent, we haven’t, and we are very sorry for that,” she said.
“Our focus now is on making sure we complete this reconciliation thoroughly and as quickly as possible, so we can ensure that the superannuation contributions and compensation owing are made to team members’ superannuation funds.
“We have also fixed the original error to ensure that this does not happen again,” Ms Coombes said.
Bunnings is the latest in a long line of prominent retailers found to have underpaid their staff in recent times, with automotive and outdoor retailer Super Retail Group admitting earlier this year it underpaid its managers $32 million in unpaid overtime.
Jewellery chain Michael Hill, apparel retailer Sunglass Hut and celebrity chef George Calombaris are others that recently were found to have underpaid staff millions.
However, the company may dodge some of the penalties for underpaying super as the government is attempting to pass legislation enacting a superannuation “amnesty” for employers that have failed to pay super.
If passed, Bunnings would not be required to pay the superannuation guarantee charge on the unpaid super, which consists of interest and an administration fee.
In the last financial year the Tax Office recovered $805 million of payments through its superannuation analysis.
Bunnings is the biggest earner for parent company Wesfarmers, a Perth-based conglomerate, making up 57 per cent of its profits. In the 2019 financial year, Bunnings reported earnings of $1.62 billion and revenue of $13.1 billion.
The company has briefed both the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and its employees’ super fund, REST.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the FWO said it was aware Bunnings had “self-reported superannuation underpayments to some of its workforce”.
“Employees with concerns about unpaid superannuation should contact the [Australian Taxation Office] in the first instance,” the spokesperson said.