Hardware giant Bunnings has become the latest high-profile business to admit that it had inadvertently underpaid staff entitlements, with a payroll “error” resulting in a shortfall in superannuation payments.
The retailer, owned by ASX-listed Wesfarmers, said in a statement on Thursday afternoon (26 September) that it had “been alerted to an error in the payroll system code, dating back to 2011, that relates to superannuation payments”.
“The error affects part-time team members employed in Australian Warehouses and Smaller Format Stores who worked more than their annual contracted hours from the 2011–2012 financial year onwards,” it said.
“In most cases, it will only affect superannuation contributions for May or June of the relevant year.”
According to the statement, Bunnings is currently undertaking a “full reconciliation” of its payroll, which it plans to have independently verified. It will then make “a back payment plus compensation in accordance with Australian Tax Office requirements”.
Bunnings said that it had disclosed the breach to both the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and the Retail Employee Superannuation Trust (REST), and will begin contacting affected employees individually.
A spokesperson for the FWO said only that “the Fair Work Ombudsman is aware of reports that Bunnings has self-reported superannuation underpayments to some of its workforce. Employees with concerns about unpaid superannuation should contact the ATO in the first instance.”
Bunnings HR director Jacqui Coombes said the retailer was “very sorry” for the mistake.
“We understand the importance of ensuring our team members are paid everything they are entitled to in full and on time — in this case, while inadvertent, we haven’t, and we are very sorry for that,” she said.
“Our focus now is on making sure we complete this reconciliation thoroughly and as quickly as possible so we can ensure that the superannuation contributions and compensation owing are made to team members’ superannuation funds.”
Ms Coombes added: “We have also fixed the original error to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Current and former employees who believe they may have been affected are being urged to contact Bunnings directly on 1800 800 311 for more information.
The extent to which workers have been shortchanged is not immediately clear.
Bunnings’ self-disclosure comes in the same week that another high-profile retailer, Sunglass Hut — owned by international group Luxottica — had self-disclosed that it had underpaid 620 of its part-time workers by almost $2.3 million over a six-year period.
As with Bunnings, Sunglass Hut blamed an “inadvertent” error that led to workers not being paid overtime rates under the industry award.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker revealed at the National Small Business Summit in late August that her office would be clamping down on compliance within the corporate sector, following a spate of self-disclosures about large-scale underpayments.
She said that “at a minimum”, the FWO would require these companies to sign a court-enforceable undertaking to amend their payroll processes; to repay all money owed with interest, including superannuation; make a contrition payment; and make a public apology.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.