Bunnings on Thursday informed employees of a payroll error that resulted in some part-time workers receiving incorrect superannuation payments for the past eight years.
According to Bunnings, the error affects part-time employees in its warehouses and smaller format stores in Australia, who worked more than their annual contracted hours from FY12 onwards.
An error in the payment system’s code resulted in these employees not receiving superannuation payment for the hours they worked over their annual contracted hours.
The retailer is currently running a full reconciliation and said it won’t know the scope of the underpayment for another four to six weeks.
Since the error dates back to FY12, however, it is expected to affect a significant number of employees.
The revelation comes as the Morrison government seeks feedback on a draft bill to introduce harsher penalties for employers that underpay their workers. The bill is expected to include heavy fines and criminal sanctions for the worst offenders, but would not target employers that make genuine mistakes.
But the Fair Work Ombudsman has said self-disclosure will no longer be enough to protect big businesses from punishment. Sunglass Hut recently paid a $50,000 “contrition” payment in addition to $2.3 million in back payments after revealing it had underpaid workers in penalty rates over nearly six years.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Friday that Bunnings had committed “wage theft” and that the government needed to do more to protect workers.
Other retailers that have admitted to underpaying workers include several franchises, such as Retail Food Group, Domino’s, Caltex and 7-Eleven, as well as the likes of MJ Bale, Michael Hill and Super Retail Group’s Rebel Sport.
Bunnings’ HR director apologises
Bunnings, which is owned by Wesfarmers, said it has briefed the Fair Work Ombudsman and notified the Retail Employee Superannuation Trust (REST). It is also contacting former team members who have been affected by the error.
Bunnings’ HR director Jacqui Coombes said the business was “very sorry” and that it would pay the affected workers what they are owed plus compensation.
“We understand the importance of ensuring our team members are paid everything they are entitled to in full and on time – in this case, whilst inadvertent, we haven’t, and we are very sorry for that,” she said in a statement.
“Our focus now is on making sure we complete this reconciliation thoroughly and as quickly as possible, so we can ensure that the superannuation contributions and compensation owing are made to team members’ superannuation funds.
“We have also fixed the original error to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on 30/09/2019 to include additional information about retail underpayments.