National parcel delivery company Couriers Please has admitted underpaying staff by $382,000 by not allowing paid meal breaks over eight years.
The company has now entered into an Enforceable Undertaking which includes a commitment to back pay the workers and introduce new systems to ensure the underpayments don’t happen again.
Audit discovered the meal break breach
After a worker made an inquiry about not being provided with a 20-minute paid meal break last year, Couriers Please commenced an internal audit.
The investigation found that the company had not provided meal breaks to 245 current and former employees performing shift work.
The freight-handling and depot staff who worked across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia were entitled to the paid break under the relevant award.
Company blames new payroll system
Couriers Please has admitted to breaching workplace laws and blamed it on a new electronic payroll system which was implemented in 2010.
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.
Enforceable Undertaking appropriate
Instead of prosecuting Couriers Please, Fair Work instead offered the company the chance to enter into an Enforceable Undertaking.
Under the terms of the agreement, Couriers Please has pledged to implement 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.
The company must also display public, workplace and online notices detailing its breaches and information about employee entitlements, and make payroll and human resources staff complete online courses and workplace relations training.
In addition, Couriers Please will make a gesture of contrition through a $50,000 payment to the Commonwealth Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Breaks can cost big time
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said little things like paid meal breaks can add up to big underpayments over time.
“It might not seem like much, but if you fail to provide appropriate breaks, or if you make staff start 15 minutes early or finish 15 minutes late, it can add up to a huge claim over time – especially when you have hundreds of staff,” he said.
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