WHSmith Underpays Australian Workers

WHSmith Australia has entered an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman after underpaying employees by $2.2 million.

WHSmith Australia, owned by UK company WHSmith PLC, operates news agencies and café stores in high traffic areas such as airports train stations and hospitals. They self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman after an internal audit discovered they failed to correctly pay employees under the General Retail Industry Award 2010 and Fast Food Industry Award 2010.

The UK owned company underpaid employees in stock control, customer service, food preparation and store management in sites located across six states and territories. The underpayments occurred between 2013 and 2019. Employees were not paid full overtime entitlements or annual leave entitlements. Penalty rates for employees who had less than 12 hours between shifts and clothing allowances were also not paid. Record keeping was also not compliant.

As of October WHSmith had back paid 1,511 current and former employees a total of $2.2 million, including superannuation and interest. The maximum individual back-payment was $117,000. The remaining employees are required to be back paid within the next four months.

These breaches in Australian modern Awards have also cost WHSmith a contrition payment of $50,000 to be paid to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund. WHSmith are also required to display notices of its workplace breaches, apologise to workers, run workplace relations training for staff, operate a hotline for employees and provide evidence it will ensure future compliance.

This case is a warning for employers, if workplace compliance is not prioritised, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale at great cost to your business.

For assistance determining the correct pay rate for your employees contact ProcessWorx on (08) 9316 9896 or enquiries@processworx.com.au

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Written by Danielle McNamee

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Marisa Ross

HR Advisor

Marisa is an experienced and motivated HR professional with a strong HR generalist and business operations background with a focus on employee relations, performance management, leadership training & development, workers compensation & injury management, and employee retention. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science with a minor in Counselling. Having worked in a variety of industries from SMEs to large blue-chip organisations, Marisa is passionate about enriching employee experience, employee retention, and building leadership capability in people management.

Aimee Grigson

Aimee Grigson

WHS Advisor

Aimee has a strong understanding of Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and standards and has extensive HSEQ experience in a number of industries. Aimee has a great ability to engage across all levels of organisation, including field teams, leadership and external stakeholders. Aimee ensures Health and Safety Management Systems are compliant to legislation, effectively implemented and understood by all. Aimee has a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and qualifications in auditing and incident investigations. Aimee is passionate about coaching and developing small businesses towards a positive safety culture.