Last week I declared that most cases of employee underpayments are inadvertent and that businesses, especially large employers, are working on compliance measures.
Subsequently, we have seen more reports of underpayments by large employers. These are businesses who are conducting audits, reviewing their processes, and rectifying inadvertent errors. This is not wage-theft. They are doing the very things “asked” of them and are being pilloried nonetheless.
Here’s a shortlist, by no means comprehensive, of what employers grapple with in the quest for compliance:
- Multiple awards and enterprise agreements, causing uncertainty about which applies.
- Identifying which award actually applies as the “most appropriate” when two are capable of applying.
- Whether a common law contract provides for an adequate “set off” clause, such that the contract covers all payments under the award, as and when due.
- Monitoring casual work to ensure it is indeed “casual” work, and even then being uncertain that it is.
- Introducing “Bundy”-type clock-on / clock-off systems to accurately capture hours of work, only to be challenged about their legality, lest they invade “privacy”.
- Ensuring employees “work to the clock” and don’t self-regulate working hours (which is particularly difficult when dealing with highly motivated, outcome-focused managers and professionals).
- Classifying employees correctly under an award or enterprise agreement.
- Ensuring salaries incorporate adequate amounts for fluctuating hours of work e.g. overtime, weekends, shift work and meal breaks.
- Managing payroll systems to deal with record-keeping requirements for different types of employees.
- Keeping records of any formal or informal agreements as to working arrangements.
- Ensuring external payroll providers have their systems correctly configured.
- Addressing flow on effects of award / enterprise agreement payment errors to other entitlements e.g. leave accruals and superannuation.
- Documenting employee agreement to change working arrangements on a day-to-day basis (or pay penalties under an award).
- Calculating personal/carer’s leave based on an average of hours worked when the law apparently requires something different.
- Keeping up to date with changes to awards and then interpreting the changes correctly: for example, there have been over 70 changes to the Retail Modern Award alone since 2015.
The list does not end here.