Business owners have been criticised for ‘stealing’ wages from hard-working employees by underpaying wages and relying on unpaid overtime, as research uncovers that a staggering number of workers are potentially being underpaid.
Research from global workforce management provider Kronos suggested that around 10 per cent of employed Australians — or around 1 million people — are not paid their full entitlements under the legal minimum wage.
According to Kronos, almost half (48 per cent) of workers said they were not always paid for overtime work, including meetings and training that fall outside of their normal work hours, while 11 per cent said their pay packets did not accurately reflect their hours worked.
“Following research from UTS and UNSW revealing one in three backpackers and international students are paid half the legal minimum wage, we thought it was important to understand the severity of the situation across all employees in Australia,” said Kronos SEA managing director Peter Harte.
“It’s disappointing to learn, that even in today’s mature economy, a large number of Australians are being exploited in the workplace — at a time when wage growth is slow and many people are working harder than ever.”
Mr Harte added: “The practice is also illegal. with significant penalty rates for those businesses found to breach regulations. The situation is not ideal for building the thriving and intelligent economy Australia needs to compete in the international marketplace.”
However, Mr Harte stopped short of laying blame solely on employers, noting the complexity and ever-changing nature of industrial relations rules as a significant contributor to the wage malaise.
“Given the complexity of workplace regulations and the changes that can occur annually, we understand it is not always easy for businesses to keep up to date,” the managing director said.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah recently suggested business owners are becoming “overconfident” in their understanding of awards and wage conditions, and, as such, are getting caught out either in regulator raids or complaints by employees.
“While these mistakes may be careless rather than malicious, the fact remains that there has never been more freely available information for employers than there is right now, so there are no excuses for making these mistakes,” Ms Hannah said.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.