HR Compliance: Do they really not know or just don’t care?

HR Compliance: Do they really not know or just don’t care?

We have seen an increasing number of Australia businesses either fall on their swords (or probably more accurately being pushed off the gang plank) and admitting they have underpaid their staff or been on the wrong award.

In 2019 George Calombaris self-reported his $7.8m bungle, said that it was a mistake, an oversight and that he was ‘gutted’.

Woolworths ‘unreservedly apologised’ for its estimated $3m underpayment to almost 6000 staff. And then the Commonwealth Bank racked up $15m in underpayments for 8000 staff.

The list of those caught in this quagmire is who’s who of Australian big business. One article written in November 2019 outlines some of the more well known ones and you can read it for yourself here.

It wasn’t so long ago (and in the scheme of things 10 years is quite recent!) that Queensland Health managed to do just the opposite to today’s scandal and managed to overpay many of its staff resulting in what is now referred to as ‘the payroll debacle’.

My point is that payroll issues seem to have featured in the news cycles constantly over the past few years in Australia.

Why is that? Is the system too complex? Are the risks of underpaying staff less than the benefits of doing so, or do businesses really not know or simply don’t care?

Australia’s Industrial relations system has been in place for more than 100 years and there’s upwards of 100 awards and industrial agreements that cover Australian workers, and that’s not considering the enterprise bargaining agreements negotiated between staff and their employers. Looks pretty complex and tough to navigate to me!

One thing is for sure, Australian SME’s and large business simply cannot afford to become complacent when it comes to their employee contracts, awards and HR processes they adopt and regularly compliance check.

That’s why having external regular HR health checks are the way to go to ensure you don’t end up on the front page as the latest underpaying Australian business.



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