Employee advocacy firm Industrial Relations Claims is warning former Queensland Health workers who are being sent letters of demand from debt collectors for overpayment of wages to not pay up.
The letters are being sent to former Queensland Health hospital staff who were overpaid due to major payroll errors made by the department in 2010.
It’s estimated that $38 million is still owed by 32,000 employees, but Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said workers don’t need to pay, because time has run out for Queensland Health.
Is a Queensland Health debt collector chasing you? Call us now on 1300 853 837 or click here for a quick call back even after hours
“The department is trying to pull a fast one, because these debts no longer need to be paid back, because they were incurred more than than six years ago,” he said.
“The statute of limitations is six years, so if the Queensland Health overpayments happened before that, well bad luck.”
Industrial Relations Claims is representing many workers who have received letters of demand from debt collectors on behalf of Queensland Health, and have been asked to pay back amounts ranging from $45,000 to $6,000.
“Some arein their retirement, some of them are living week to week on the pension, and now they’ve got this threat of litigation,” Mr Heffernan said.
“These poor people are having Queensland Health pick a fight with them, a fight that Queensland Health is not allowed to pick, but many former workers might not know that.”
The 2010 payroll stuff up cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, and the government has been trying to recoup the money ever since.
On its website, Queensland Health says:
We are very aware that the overpayments often occurred through no fault of our staff and we recognise the frustration and confusion they have caused. Given these circumstances, staff members have been incredibly patient and their patience and understanding has been very much appreciated.
While Mr Heffernan agreed the government should do all it can to recover public funds, he said they should have done it in the time allowed.
“They had their chance when it was within the scope of the law, which means they should have done it six years ago,” he said.
“Now that their time has run out, they still want to have a crack.
“How dare they sit on their hands for six years or eight years or more, and then wait for someone to drift off into retirement, and then start chasing them with letters of demand.”
Mr Heffernan is concerned that many former workers who hear from debt collectors will feel intimidated or frightened, and believe that they are legally obligated to pay back the money, and might even be making direct debit arrangements to do so.
“I’m sure that these letters are working, otherwise why would they be doing it?” he said.
“There’s no lawful way that they can make these former workers pay back the money.”
If any former hospital staff are not sure what to do, Mr Heffernan wants them to make contact.
“If they get a snarky letter from Queensland Health, call me – that’s what I want,” he said.
If you are a former Queensland Health employee and have received a letter of demand from a debt collector, please don’t pay. Instead, call Industrial Relations Claims on 1300 853 837, and we will help.