The back-payments from Queensland Government-owned organisation Sunwater are part of an enforceable undertaking it has entered into with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Sunwater incorrectly assumed its employees were excluded from entitlements payable under the enterprise agreements covering its workforce. The affected employees were mainly technical specialists and managers.
This resulted in employees on individual contracts being underpaid base salaries, annual leave loading, on-call and relocation allowance, superannuation and accrued time off in lieu, the FWO said. In addition, record-keeping laws were also breached.
Under the enforceable undertaking, Sunwater will make a contrition payment into the federal government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund. The size of the contrition payment will be 4.5 per cent of the total underpayment figure and is estimated to be more than $100,000.
The public organisation must fund an independent organisation to operate a hotline for the next 12 months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.
Sunwater is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches.
Sunwater has so far back-paid 73 workers a total of more than $2.3 million, which includes interest and superannuation, who were underpaid between 2006 and 2020. Individual underpayments range from less than $60 to more than $224,000.
While Sunwater has already back-paid the majority of workers, the enforceable undertaking requires the organisation to pay any outstanding amounts to former employees by 31 October this year.
“Sunwater has demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying underpayments, and the enforceable undertaking commits the company to stringent measures to protect its workforce,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.
“This includes engaging an expert auditing firm to conduct an independent assessment of the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance over the next two years.”