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How Qld's biggest company underpaid 15,800 workers to the tune of $32 million

Business

Suncorp has had to repay $32 million to about 15,800 of its staff it underpaid over an eight-year period.

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The company entered an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman after it confessed to the breaches in 2020.

The ombudsman said the company’s errors related to an inconsistency around rostered employees and clauses around the penalties that were paid under its enterprise agreement.

It’s just the latest company found to have breached laws. BHP revealed it had to repay $430 million to 28,000 staff it had underpaid over a 10-year period.

One Suncorp employee was underpaid $54,000 with the average underpayment at $1687. The period of underpayment was between 2014 and 2022.

On top of repaying the affected workers, Suncorp also had to make a “contrition payment” to the Federal Government of $520,000.

The ombudsman said impacted current and former employees worked nation-wide in a variety of roles in the insurance arm of the business, including as advisors, assessors, customer support staff, technical staff, team leaders and managers.

Suncorp has already back-paid more than 99 per cent of the more than $32 million owed. This included having paid about $26 million in wages and entitlements, $4.5 million in interest and $1.4 million in superannuation.

The remainder had to be repaid this year.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said an enforceable undertaking was appropriate because Suncorp had committed to stringent measures to ensure its employees were paid correctly in future.

“This matter demonstrates the importance of employers placing a high priority on compliance, including with all laws in the enterprise agreements,” Parker said.

“Suncorp’s incorrect application of particular clauses has led to underpayment of basic employee entitlements and a large back-payment bill.”

Suncorp first identified underpayments after commencing an internal review into specific pay and leave practices and its rostering systems.

The impacted staff were employed at Suncorp Staff Pty Ltd, Suncorp Insurance Services Limited and Australian Associated Motor Insurers Pty Limited (AAMI).

The ombudsman said the inconsistent use of ‘rostered employee’ and misunderstandings of appropriate entitlements under a self-service process led to the underpayment of entitlements including overtime, shift loadings, weekend penalties, annual leave loading, public holiday loadings, minimum rate of pay, long service leave, redundancy, payment in lieu of notice, meal allowances and superannuation.

 

 

 

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