The National Retail Association has pointed out difficulties in the complex retail award, and called for better education for both businesses and workers, after Super Retail Group revealed it had unintentionally underpaid its staff.
The errors were revealed in an internal review into the groups Set Up team members, which found they were not paid under the correct award, as well as an inconsistent approach in how time in lieu, overtime payments and allowances were applied.
“Our team members are the heart and soul of our business and we are very sorry that we have let down some of our team members and fallen short of our standards in this case,” Super Retail Group managing director and chief executive Peter Birtles said.
“This was a genuine mistake that we deeply regret… We have taken all possible steps to ensure that affected team members receive what they are owed plus 5.5 per cent interest per year and that this issue does not happen again.”
Super Retail Group has set aside $7.9 million to cover the estimated cost of back payments, with interest to be paid in addition. The company recently reported $2.57 billion in total sales for FY18, up 7 per cent from the previous year, and $128.3 million in net profit after tax.
NRA chief executive Dominique Lamb said a number of recent cases, such as the underpayment of Lush employees, have highlighted the complex nature of the Modern Retail Award.
“One underpayment is too many, and that’s why the NRA is a very strong advocate for greater education for employers, to ensure that honest mistakes are reduced and also for employees so that the small number of unscrupulous employers have less ability to get away with unlawful treatment of their staff,” Lamb said.
Lamb continues that while many schools provide basic education in regards to having a tax file number, and fewer provide some education in workplace skills, the NRA knows of no formalised attempt to educate young people about their rights under the Fair Work system, including in formal traineeships and apprenticeships.
“The NRA believes we could significantly reduce both accidental underpayments and deliberate wage theft if our young people have a stronger understanding of their workplace rights, and the confidence to enforce them,” Lamb said.
“For this reason, we urge the relevant governments and agencies to consider options to ensure young people are better informed.”
Access exclusive analysis, locked news and reports with Inside Retail Weekly. Subscribe today and get our premium print publication delivered to your door every week.