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Best & Less forced to back pay hundreds of managers $5.2m

Regulation

The retailer short-changed staff across its network an average of $7,600 apiece.

By Philip King 9 minute read

Best & Less will back pay almost 700 staff more than $5.2 million and make a $200,000 contrition payment after signing an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

The agreement comes after the clothing and household goods retailer discovered it had short-changed managers across its 189 outlets on penalty rates, overtime, allowances and annual leave loading.

An internal review found the salaries paid were insufficient to cover their minimum entitlements under the General Retail Industry Award 2010, and in December 2020 Best & Less reported the underpayments to the FWO.

The retailer had also failed to make and keep proper records of hours worked by its store managers and assistant store managers.

The 686 current and former employees worked in both regional and metropolitan areas throughout every state and territory between 2013 and 2020.

The back-payments range up to $42,144 with the average amount about $7,600. Best & Less must also pay almost $500,000 in superannuation and a $200,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said an enforceable undertaking was appropriate as Best & Less had cooperated with the FWO’s investigation and demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying underpayments.

“Under the enforceable undertaking, Best & Less has committed to implementing stringent measures to ensure all its workers are paid correctly,” Ms Hannah said. “These measures include commissioning independent audits of its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years

“This matter is another reminder to employers to place a high priority on meeting all of their workplace obligations to staff. Insufficient salaries have become a persistent problem in many Australian workplaces.

“Employers need to be aware that employees must be paid at least the minimum entitlements that they are owed under the applicable industrial instrument, such as an award.”

“Employers that take a ‘set-and-forget’ approach and fail to record and reconcile actual hours worked when paying salaries risk substantial back-pay bills to their hard-working staff.”

The undertaking requires Best & Less to notify all underpaid employees in writing, post in-store, website and social media notices detailing the contraventions, establish a telephone hotline, and commission an independent expert to oversee its rectification program.

The FWO said Best & Less had already back paid most of the employees and had to complete the payments by October.

 

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Philip King

Philip King

AUTHOR

Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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