Super Retail Group faces court action over alleged underpayments

(Source: Bigstock)

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court against Super Retail Group (SUL) and four subsidiary companies, alleging underpayments.

Super Retail Group’s subsidiaries include Rebel Sports, Super Cheap Auto, SRG Leisure Retail trading as BCF and Ray’s Outdoors and Macpac Retail.

Between January 2017 and March 2019, it is alleged that employees were underpaid a total of approximately $1.14 million for their work.

Underpayments of individual sample employees ranged from small amounts to about $34,500 during this timeframe. The workers were responsible for store management, setting up stores, retail and administration.

The case came to light after the company self-reported “widespread” underpayments to the FWO and the Australian Securities Exchange in 2018.

The regulator has alleged that most of the underpayments were a result of subsidiary companies paying salaried employees annual salaries that “failed” to cover their minimum lawful entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said keeping large corporate sector employers “accountable” for any underpayments remained a “priority”.

“The breaches alleged in this case – inadequate annual salaries for employees stretching across multiple years – have become a persistent issue for businesses across many industries,

“Every employer should be clear that if annual salaries do not cover all minimum lawful entitlements for all hours actually worked, the results can be substantial back-payment bills, plus the risk of significant court-ordered penalties. Penalties can also be higher for serious contraventions.”

The company has also “failed to pay all entitlements” owed for hours worked while overtime entitlements, weekend and public holiday penalty rates were underpaid.

FWO is seeking penalties against Super Retail Group and its four subsidiaries — about $63,000 per breach while the holding company will be fined $63,000 for liability-related penalties.

In an ASX statement, Super Retail Group MD and CEO, Anthony Heraghty, said: “We note the allegations in the proceedings and reiterate our view that this matter represents a regrettable chapter in our company’s history.

“It is unacceptable and contrary to the company’s values for any team member not to be paid correctly. We are sorry for the impact on our team members and today we restate our unreserved apology to each person affected.”

The company said a comprehensive back payment program for affected team members has been undertaken with the assistance of external advisers.

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