An Australian foreign exchange firm has to repay hundreds of workers more than $1.3 million after an audit revealed extensive underpayment and illegitimate deductions from wages spanning seven years.
Sydney-based UAE Exchange Australia, which has offices in 31 countries worldwide, was found to have unlawfully withheld or deducted a total of $1,335,664 from 243 employees.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), UAE Exchange paid some employees flat rates of between $15.38 and $20.42 per hour – around two-thirds of what they were entitled to under the relevant award, and considerably less than the required penalty rates for weekends and public holidays.
The underpayments initially related to three workers in Queensland, who between them have since been repaid $100,253.
The mispayments date back as far as 2010 and continued through to 2017.
UAE Exchange then launched an internal audit of its processes and payments, and discovered that underpayments affected a further 240 of its employees.
Along with over $1 million worth of wage underpayments, the company was found to have forced employees to “make good” on daily cash register shortages, which breaches Fair Work provisions against unauthorised pay deductions. These deductions amounted to a further $170,018.
The business has already reimbursed workers $407,329 of the monies owed and has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the FWO to complete the repayments by September 2018.
“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, UAE Exchange is required to make major improvements to its workplace practices, with current and future workers to benefit,” said ombudsman Sandra Parker.
“This action serves as a warning to global businesses that if you don’t get your workplace compliance in order, you can be left with a massive back-payment bill.”
UAE Exchange has been contacted for comment.
The case mirrors that of cosmetics retailer Lush, which last month acknowledged payroll errors that had seen it underpay as many as 5,000 employees.
“It was irresponsible to imagine that such a manual and outdated system could work for a business of our size,” the company’s Australian director, Peta Granger, said at the time.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.