During the course of an internal review, Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) identified instances of underpayment of wages. The underpayments occurred between August 2017 and September 2020, and affected several hundred employees.
AHL has responded in a proactive way, with a multi phased approach, reflective of the seriousness with which we viewed the matter. Firstly, systems were promptly put in place to correct the issues that led to the underpayments. Secondly, AHL identified those employees affected, calculated how much was owed, and commenced the process of back-payments. To ensure an independent, robust and accurate process, AHL engaged a leading chartered accounting firm to support this work, which included a focus on understanding how this occurred, so that sustainable solutions could be implemented.
As an organisation committed to transparency, AHL self-reported these developments to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). As at the end of March 2021, back-payments including interest, had been made to almost all of the affected employees, with less than one per cent of back-payments remaining outstanding. Finalising these remains a priority. Individual back-payments ranged from $3 to more than $37,000 and the average back-payment was $3,714.
AHL Chief Executive Officer, Dave Chalmers AO CSC, today said:
“On commencing at AHL in March last year, I was concerned to learn of what had happened, but pleased that the necessary steps were already underway to rectify.
As I have conveyed to our valued staff, I am deeply sorry for the impact this may have had and I thank our staff for their continued dedication to AHL throughout this process. Without their professionalism and commitment, AHL could not have continued to deliver on our important mandate – to facilitate greater access to services, education and economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians, through culturally appropriate accommodation.
I wish to take this opportunity to again reassure our staff that AHL has learned and grown from this experience, with stronger processes and procedures now in place, to ensure this does not happen again.”
Since self-reporting to the FWO, AHL has worked in a cooperative and open way, providing regular progress updates and willingly entering into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU). AHL accepts the EU findings and is confident of meeting all EU requirements. As the EU details, the underpayments (totalling more than $2.7m), reflected non-compliance with the AHL Enterprise Agreement 2017 concerning payment for select employees working on Sundays and payment during annual leave, some APS1 employees being paid less than the relevant award rate, non-payment of overtime meal allowances and incorrect payment of pay point progression. AHL has made significant progress towards meeting the EU requirements and is confident of maintaining compliance, even after the matter is finalised.
AHL is proud of the services we deliver and to also be the leading employer of Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service. We have supported our employees throughout this process and have reached out to all affected employees, past and present. We continue to engage with our diverse and skilled workforce across Australia, to rebuild trust in our systems. While AHL can assure our current workforce that the issues that led to the underpayments have been resolved, if any employee has concerns about their pay or conditions of employment, they can contact our independent hotline on 02 8372 2210 or at AHLHotlineEnquiry@oraclecms.com. AHL remains committed to a workplace culture where people feel comfortable communicating and as such, encourages anyone with any concerns to reach out, so we can support them.
Media Contact: Melissa Connors, 02 6212 2006, firstname.lastname@example.org