The National Library of Australia underpaid staff by a whopping $250,000.
The underpayments involved both wages and also superannuation over two decades.
As a result, the public Commonwealth entity has now entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
National Library underpaid staff
The Library, based in Canberra, discovered the underpayments during an internal payroll audit.
It subsequently self-reported to Fair Work, explaining it had misunderstood the requirements of the relevant Enterprise Agreement.
As a result, it failed to pay penalty rates to its casual employees.
The Library underpaid 106 current and former workers a total of $245,359 between 2000 and April 2020.
One worker is owed $19,997, and 11 others more than $5,000 each.
The affected staff worked as library assistants, offering help to the public on weekends and public holidays.
The Enforceable Undertaking
The Enforceable Undertaking means Fair Work will not take legal action against the Library.
Instead, it requires the Library to rectify all outstanding underpayments within three months, including interest.
More than half of those owed money have already been repaid.
The Undertaking also requires the Library to conduct an external audit of its payroll systems.
And finally, the Library must apologise to its workers and display on online notice detailing its workplace breaches.
Undertakings send wrong message
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au is critical of Enforceable Undertakings.
“Once again we have an employer of a large organisation failing to meet its basic workplace obligation – paying its staff correctly,” he said.
“Instead of commencing court action, the regulator is offering a cosy agreement that only requires the Library to back-pay what it owes, plus some interest.
“The Library doesn’t even have to make a so-called ‘Contrition Payment’.
“Enforceable Undertakings send the wrong message – if you get caught ripping off your staff, all you have to do is pay what you owe and that’s the end of it.”
Contrition Payment not appropriate
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker defended the decision not to impose a Contrition Payment.
She pointed to the Library’s co-operation in rectifying its non-compliance issues.
For example, making back-payments that happened well beyond the statute of limitations of six years.
“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, this entity has committed to stringent measures to comply with the law and protect its workforce.
“This includes engaging, at its own cost, an expert auditing firm to audit its compliance with workplace laws.
“This matter serves as a warning to all public and private sector employers that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale.”
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