Worrying list of Australian companies underpaying staff

Pedestrians walk past the ground floor of an office building with Westpac logo amidst the easing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in the Central Business District of Sydney, Australia

Some of Australia’s biggest companies have been caught up in underpayment scandals, prompting the federal government to say it would introduce tougher laws that criminalise what it called “wage theft” and ban executives from being company directors if they were involved.

Here are some companies which recently admitted to underpaying staff:

** Australia’s second-largest lender Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) said it would have to pay A$8 million ($5.54 million) to around 8,000 employees who were found to have been underpaid their long-service leave entitlements due to calculation errors.

** Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd (WES.AX) said it had underpaid employees at its Target department store business by A$9 million. This was on top of the errors disclosed in October when it said about 6,000 staff in other divisions were underpaid about A$15 million since 2010.

** Coles Group (COL.AX), the country’s second largest grocery chain, said it had underpaid some store managers for six years and posted near-flat earnings for the half year as it included a A$20 million provision for staff remediation payments.

** Woolworths Group (WOW.AX) said it underpaid staff at its pubs and liquor stores division, following revelations last year that it had underpaid staff at its supermarkets. It is the second time this year the Sydney-based employer of 115,000 people has upped its expected reimbursement bill.

** Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) said it would pay A$25 million to current and former employees who were found in a review to have been underpaid, and its chief executive apologised for “past errors.”

** Car retailer AP Eagers (APE.AX) said anomalies in its payroll system led to about 6,200 employees being underpaid over seven years by up to A$4.5 million.

** Australian celebrity chef George Calombaris, who shot to local fame through his role on the television show “Masterchef”, said he had underpaid hundreds of his restaurant employees by nearly A$8 million over six years. Calombaris’ restaurant group went into voluntary administration, local media reported last week.

** Jewellery retailer Michael Hill International Ltd (MHJ.AX) said it would incur one-off costs of up to A$25 million to rectify underpaying a number of its store workers over the last six years.

** Super Retail Group (SUL.AX) said it would make cost provisions of about A$43 million for compensating its retail store managers for the underpayment of overtime and other allowances over six years.

** The Australian Broadcasting Corp said a review of 2,575 casual staff found that 1,886 were underpaid.

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