Harris Scarfe, Best & Less latest retailers to face underpayment probes

(Source: Bigstock)

Australian retailers Harris Scarfe and Best & Less Group are facing a probe along with legal action for underpaying employees.

An investigation by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) found that Harris Scarfe did not correctly compensate several employees who were working more than 38 hours a week.

“Being paid for all time worked at the correct rate of pay isn’t optional, it’s the law,” said SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer.

“The SDA has recently recovered tens of thousands in lost pay for several salaried workers at Harris Scarfe.

“This follows a long-standing request from SDA that Harris Scarfe audits its payroll in the wake of the history of significant underpayments by major companies in the retail sector.”

According to the SDA, Harris Scarfe has agreed to conduct a broader audit of salaried workers’ pay. Inside Retail has reached out to Harris Scarfe and is awaiting a response.

Meanwhile, Best & Less has back-paid 686 current and former employees $5.21 million and has signed an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The retailer self-reported to the regulator regarding the underpayments following an internal review in 2020. Back payments range from $4 to $42,144 while average underpayment is about $7,600.

The underpaid staff were involved in various roles within a Best & Less store including part-time, night and weekend work between 2013 and 2020.

The retailer failed to maintain proper records of hours worked and ended up underpaying the employees’ overtime, allowances, annual entitlements and penalty rates.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said an EU was “appropriate” as Best & Less had cooperated with the FWO’s investigation and demonstrated “a strong commitment to rectifying underpayments”.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Best & Less has committed to implementing stringent measures to ensure all its workers are paid correctly.

“These measures include commissioning independent audits of its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years.”

Best & Less must also make a $200,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund as part of the undertaking and back-pay all staff by October.

“This matter is another reminder to employers to place a high priority on meeting all of their workplace obligations to staff. Insufficient salaries have become a persistent problem in many Australian workplaces,” said Hannah.

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