Aboriginal Hostels signs Enforceable Undertaking

Aboriginal Hostels Limited (Aboriginal Hostels) has back-paid staff more than $2.7 million after entering into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Aboriginal Hostels is a Commonwealth Government organisation, which operates 45 hostels across Australia. It provides accommodation for Indigenous Australians who need to be away from home to access education, employment, health and other services.

The organisation self-reported underpayments to the Fair Work Ombudsman in March 2020.

After being prompted by a pay query from an employee, Aboriginal Hostels commissioned an audit and discovered it had failed to ensure its lowest-classification employees received the minimum pay rates and entitlements.

Affected employees were covered under the Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015 and the Aboriginal Hostels Limited Enterprise Agreement 2017.

The ‘Australian Public Service Level 1’ employees were engaged as night attendants, cooks, kitchen hands, cleaners, handypersons and hostel workers.

They were underpaid minimum wage rates, Sunday penalty rates, an overtime meal allowance, annual leave pay and pay-point progressions between August 2017 and September 2020.

Underpaid employees worked in metropolitan and regional areas across Victoria, NSW, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

In total, Aboriginal Hostels has back-paid 687 current and former employees more than $2.7 million (including interest and superannuation). Individual back-payments range from $3 to more than $37,000.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the underpayments were the result of Aboriginal Hostels not having adequate payment systems and processes in place.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Aboriginal Hostels has committed to implementing stringent measures to protect the rights of its workforce. These measures include developing systems and processes for ensuring compliance in future and engaging an independent auditor to conduct two audits of its compliance with workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

“This matter demonstrates how important it is for employers to perform regular payroll checks and be aware of every lawful entitlement they must pay their employees. Any employer who needs assistance meeting their lawful obligations should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

Under the EU, Aboriginal Hostels is required to display workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches, apologise to workers, commission workplace relations training for relevant payroll and workplace relations staff, and commission an independent organisation to operate a Hotline for employees for 12 months.

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