All employees in Australia are governed by different legislative instruments. The purpose of these instruments is to protect the rights and entitlements of employees. The Fair Work Act 2009 (‘the Act’) sets out minimum entitlements that all employers must provide to their employees.
One entitlement we are most familiar with is wages. The Fair Work Ombudsman sets out the minimum wage which is updated every year. Failure to correctly pay employees can lead to penalties imposed by the regulator.
This can be seen in the recent legal action by the Ombudsman against the Super Retail Group Limited (Super Retail) and its four subsidiaries (the Group):
- Super Cheap Auto Pty Ltd,
- Rebel Sport Pty Ltd,
- SRG Leisure Retail Pty Ltd (trading as BCF and Ray’s Outdoors), and
- Macpac Retail Pty Ltd.
Allegations of underpayment across the Group sparked the investigation by the Ombudsman, whose legal action focuses on a sample of 146 of allegedly underpaid employees.
Within this small sample itself, it is alleged that the underpayment totals approximately $1.14 million for work undertaken between January 2017 and March 2019. The work undertaken is accumulated from hours actually worked, and overtime entitlements by employees.
Interestingly, this is the first court action where the Ombudsman has alleged breaches by a holding company for its subsidiaries’ unlawful actions. The reason is that holding companies who allegedly knew or reasonably should have known of the underpayments within their Group will be held accountable.
The Ombudsman is seeking penalties against Super Retail and the Group, which at a maximum is $630,000 per breach of the Act. A directions hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney is yet to be held.
How we can help
As an employer, it is imperative to ensure that your employees’ minimum entitlements are met. The first step is to identify under which legislative instrument their employment is covered. If you are unsure where to start, or need help navigating through the requirements, the team at W Legal Group can help.
Reach out to us today to find out about our employment subscription service at firstname.lastname@example.org.