UAE Exchange to back-pay workers $1.3 million

2 August 2018

Foreign currency exchange business UAE Exchange Australia Pty Ltd will change its workplace practices and back-pay workers under a new Enforceable Undertaking signed with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Between 2010 and 2017, workers from UAE Exchange were underpaid wages or required to “make good” daily till shortages, which is a breach of the Fair Work Act’s prohibition on unauthorised deductions from pay. The total back-payment bill for 243 workers is $1,335,664.

The investigation was sparked after an employee at a Queensland branch lodged a request for assistance in late 2015 following underpayment concerns. The worker held a student visa during most of his employment. Two workers from Adelaide later lodged similar requests and their allegations were included in the investigation.

The FWO found that the three workers, each from India, were paid flat rates that led to underpayments or non-payments of minimum rates for ordinary hours, casual loadings and penalty rates for evening, weekend, overtime and public holidays.

For example, the Queensland worker received flat hourly rates of between $15.38 and $20.42 between 2011 and 2015. Under the applicable award, the worker was entitled to hourly base rates including casual loadings of up to $23.74, up to $37.98 for Sunday hours and $52.22 on public holidays.

The investigation disclosed that the applicable award covering the three workers was the General Retail Industry Award 2010, as UAE Exchange’s main business activities involve providing foreign exchange and money transfer services on a retail basis to individual consumers.

The company has back-paid the three workers a combined $100,253, with individual payments ranging from $21,319 to $52,269 for the Queensland worker.

Prior to signing the Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the company undertook a full external audit of the wages and entitlements of all its employees for the period January 2011 to June 2017. The audit found 240 workers were owed a combined $1,235,411. This was made up of $1,065,391 in underpaid wages and $170,018 for cash shortage reimbursements.

The 240 workers were owed individual amounts between 20 cents to $34,870. UAE Exchange has rectified $407,329 of the amount identified by the full audit, and under the Enforceable Undertaking must make the remaining back-payments by the end of September 2018.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that Enforceable Undertakings ensure past and present workers receive back-payments quicker than if court action was required.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, UAE Exchange is required to make major improvements to its workplace practices, with current and future workers to benefit. This action serves as a warning to global businesses that if you don’t get your workplace compliance in order, you can be left with a massive back-payment bill,”Ms Parker said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman takes matters involving visa-holders and workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds particularly seriously. Every single worker in Australia has the same workplace rights, regardless of their citizenship, visa status, ethnicity or cultural and linguistic background,” Ms Parker said.

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