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UNSW Facing Millions In Penalties For More Alleged Wage Theft Breaches

UNSW facing millions in penalties for more alleged wage theft breaches

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) is facing millions in penalties for additional alleged wage theft breaches.

The alleged breaches follow previous wage theft issues at UNSW, and relate to record-keeping, pay slip and frequency of wage payments.

UNSW facing millions in penalties

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against UNSW in the Federal Circuit and Family Court.

The regulator commenced an investigation three years ago when the University self-report non-compliance with workplace laws.

Investigators allege that for more than four years UNSW made serious record-keeping contraventions.

Such contraventions attract ten-fold increases in maximum penalties.

The University’s record-keeping practices were allegedly so inadequate that they made it difficult to know whether employees had been underpaid.

The John Niland Scientia Building at the University of New South Wales. UNSW plaque on wall; two men conferring.

Fair Work alleges that for more than four years UNSW made serious record-keeping contraventions.

The breaches

Fair Work alleges that UNSW breached the Fair Work Act between 2017 and 2022 by:

  • Failing to make and keep records of hours, rates of pay and details of loadings and other entitlements owed to casual academic employees;
  • Not including lawfully required information in pay slips, such as basic information relating to pay rates and casual loading; and finally,
  • Failing to pay staff wages at least monthly for all hours worked.   

The legal action involves a sample of 66 allegedly affected casual academic staff in UNSW’s Business School.

Previous warnings

Fair Work alleges that UNSW committed the contraventions despite warnings previously given to a number of staff in the University’s Business School about the adequacy of its record-keeping practices.

The regulator therefore alleges that from March 2018 some of UNSW’s alleged record-keeping breaches were committed knowingly and as part of a systematic pattern of conduct and meet the definition of ‘serious contraventions’ under the Fair Work Act.


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Unacceptable

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan described the breaches as “unacceptable”.

“Record keeping is a basic part of employing people,” he said. “It literally involves making a record of when people work, what they are paid, and providing pay slips. It’s not that hard.”

Meanwhile,  Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the nature and extent of UNSW’s alleged contraventions meant that litigation is the appropriate response.

“It is completely unacceptable for an employer’s record-keeping practices to be so poor that they prevent us from assessing what hours its employees have worked and whether it has paid its employees their full lawful entitlements,” she said.

Penalties

Fair Work is seeking penalties against UNSW for multiple alleged contraventions.

The maximum penalty for each contravention is $66,600 and $666,000 for each serious contravention.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has a directions hearing listed in Sydney on 26 October 2023.


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