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Retailer forced to back-pay staff $1.3 million

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Retail furniture seller Super A-Mart will reimburse current and former staff more than $1.3 million.

The back-pay, an average of more than $1500 per employee,  follows an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) into a complaint from a former employee.  The retailer, which operates more than 30 stores in Queensland, NSW, SA, Victoria and WA, subsequently calculated that it had underpaid 877 employees a total of $1.376 million between March 2006 and March, 2010.

The underpayments arose because most Super A-Mart stores required staff to begin work before their rostered shift to prepare for store opening and stay back after their shift had finished without paying them for the extra time worked.

The company also failed to pay workers for attending staff meetings and information sessions outside their rostered shifts.

Following Super A-Mart’s co-operation and agreement to voluntarily rectify all outstanding entitlements, the FWO has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the company as an alternative to litigation.  As part of its Enforceable Undertaking with the FWO, Super A-Mart has undertaken to donate $120,000 to the Working Women’s Centre in Queensland.

Further as part of the Enforceable Undertaking, Super A-Mart must:

  • Reimburse all underpaid staff in full within two months;
  • Write a letter of apology to all affected employees;
  • Conduct a paid meeting of all existing employees affected by the breach to explain the contravention;
  • Issue a memo to all employees, to be displayed in all stores and posted on the company’s website for 30 days;
  • Place an advertisement in The Australian newspaper apologising for the breach and advising the public that it has taken corrective action;
  • Ensure all store managers attend workplace relations training courses;
  • Commission the preparation of a workplace relations compliance manual for distribution to all staff;
  • Report to the FWO at the end of the financial year for the next three years on the pay and conditions of its employees; and
  • Report within 28 days details of the implementation of systems and processes designed to ensure ongoing compliance with workplace laws.

A full copy of the Enforceable Undertakings is available for download here.

This case highlights to all employers that small mistakes can lead to significant breaches over an extended period, particularly for employers or franchise systems that employ a large workforce.  Employers are advised to check to see if they are complying with relevant industrial instruments, including modern awards and registered agreements.

If there is any doubt about compliance, contact the FWO wage line on 13 13 94 or MST lawyers on 03 8540 0295.

MST has extensive experience in assisting its clients to comply with the most current employment laws, including modern award compliance.  Please contact one of our workplace relations lawyers for further information.

Information contained in this article is sourced from the FWO website.

Author: Chao Ni

Send an email to Chao