More than 9,500 aged care and disability support workers will be back-paid $3.3 million after one of NSW’s biggest providers admitted underpaying them over seven years.
The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW), which runs more than 70 aged care facilities in NSW and the ACT, discovered the underpayments after complaints from employees.
The registered charity then self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The organisation made errors in providing laundry, uniform and vehicle allowances, and did not provide an extra week of annual leave each year to shift works entitled to it.
Uniting is back-paying 9561 workers a total of $3.36 million, including interest, for underpayments between 2013 and 2019.
Individual payments range from less than $1 to more than $11,000.
The NSW Health Services Union accused Uniting of wage theft.
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes says it was union members who noticed the underpayments and flagged the problem.
‘Australia needs harsher penalties for wage theft,’ he said in a statement.
‘Until we introduce real consequences for stealing from your workforce, many employers will pursue a ‘catch us if you can’ mentality.’
‘Aged care workers are among Australia’s hardest working and lowest paid employees.’
‘The fact they were underpaid is a shameful injustice.’
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says Uniting has paid back the majority of workers but must finish paying any outstanding amounts by August 15.
‘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,’ she said in a statement.
Uniting is also required to fund a hotline to field employee questions over the next four months, and must hire an expert auditing firm to assess the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years.