Australian disability services provider to back-pay employees more than $2.7 million

Disability services provider Breakthru Ltd is back-paying employees more than $2.7 million and has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The registered charity, which operates in NSW, Victoria and Queensland self-reported underpayments to the workplace regulator in March 2020.

During the process of negotiating a new enterprise agreement, Breakthru became aware that it had incorrectly classified a number of employees under the applicable awards and industrial agreements, resulting in an underpayment of base rates for those employees.

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The error led to Breakthru underpaying employee entitlements under the applicable industrial agreements and the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 and the Labour Market Assistance Industry Award 2010.

Underpaid employees were at various locations in Australia.

These include Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Atherton, Melbourne, Sydney, Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Taree, Tuggerah and Tuncurry.

Affected workers were in disability support and training-and-placement roles. 

In total, Breakthru is back-paying 649 current and former employees $2.75 million (including interest and superannuation) after underpaying them between 2014 and 2020.

Individual back-payments range from less than $1 to more than $34,000.

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As at 19 February 2021, the company had back-paid 616 workers, with less than $47,000 still owing to 33 former employees who must be back-paid by 31 March 2021.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an EU was appropriate as Breakthru had demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Breakthru has committed to implementing stringent measures to protect the rights of its workforce. These measures include engaging, at the company’s own cost, audits of its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years. This matter demonstrates how important it is for companies to check that they have classified every employee correctly. Any employer who needs help meeting their workplace obligations should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.”

Under the EU, Breakthru is also required to display an online notice detailing its workplace law breaches, apologise to workers, commission workplace relations training for human resources, recruitment and payroll staff and provide evidence that it has developed systems and processes for ensuring compliance in future.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free workplace advice.