A failure to provide paid meal breaks has resulted in national parcel delivery company Couriers Please Pty Ltd underpaying staff $382,065 over a period of eight years.
The significant breach of workplace laws has resulted in the company entering into a Court-Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
After being prompted by a query from an employee last year, Couriers Please conducted an internal audit and found that it had not provided a 20-minute paid meal break to 245 current and former employees performing shift work.
The freight-handling and depot staff – located across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia – were entitled to the paid break under the Road Transport and Distribution Industry Award 2010.
Couriers Please has admitted to breaching workplace laws, which first occurred when it implemented an electronic payroll system in 2010 until the issue was identified last year.
More than $360,000 has been back-paid with individual amounts ranging from less than $10 to more than $19,000. The outstanding amounts relate to employees yet to be located.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that a Court-Enforceable Undertaking was appropriate as the organisation had demonstrated a strong commitment to back-paying workers.
“This matter serves as a warning to all employers that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk failing to meet your lawful obligations to your employees every shift they work over many years, and facing a hefty back-payment bill,” Ms Parker said.
“The Court-Enforceable Undertaking commits Couriers Please to stringent measures to protect their employees, including developing new systems to ensure future compliance, funding external audits over the next two years and rectifying any further underpayments.”
Under the Court-Enforceable Undertaking, the organisation must display public, workplace and online notices detailing its breaches and information about employee entitlements; register with the My Account portal and complete online courses for employers; and fund workplace relations training for payroll and human resources staff.
In addition to the compliance measures and back-paying workers in full, the company will make a gesture of contrition through a $50,000 payment to the Commonwealth Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Couriers Please, a fully owned subsidiary of Singapore Post, has nationwide coverage across Australia and delivers more than 18 million parcels a year.
Employers and employees can visit fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free workplace advice and assistance.
CouriersPlease issued the following response:
“CouriersPlease voluntarily alerted the Fair Work Ombudsman as soon as it became aware of the payroll oversight. It has apologised to all affected past and present employees, back-paid more than 95 per cent of affected employees, and is in the final stages of our correspondence with, and back-payments to, former employees.”