Optus signs undertaking to repay $7.8m to thousands of underpaid staff after ‘error’

Thousands of current and former Optus retail consultants and store managers will be paid out more than $7.8m after the company apologised for underpaying workers.

On Friday. the Fair Work Ombudsman announced the telco had signed an enforceable undertaking to repay more than 3700 staff members employed between 2014 and the end of 2019.

The company has already back paid “the large majority” of affected employees, with the amounts ranging from $11 to $34,000. The average staff member has received $2100.

The figure includes more than $5.46m in lost wages, alongside more than $2.42m in missed superannuation and interest.

The company has been given 180 days to calculate how much its staff are owed for the period from January 2020 to July 2023.

Optus self-reported the underpayments to the Fair Work Ombudsman in April 2021 following an internal review.

The review found poor payroll, attendance systems, human resources and governance practice led to thousands of its retail workforce being underpaid.

In the signed undertaking, the company admitted it failed to meet minimum award payrates, weekend loading, meal allowances and minimum three-hour shift entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the undertaking was “appropriate”, as the company had co-operated with the investigation and committed to rectifying underpayments.

“Optus Retail’s lack of investment in human resources and poor governance led to long-term breaches and underpayments of its staff and large rectification costs,” she said.

“Employers with enterprise agreements need to put in place proper systems and regular checks to ensure ongoing compliance with all their obligations, rather than taking a ‘set and forget’ approach.”

The company will also make a $450,000 “contrition” payment to the Australian Commonwealth’s consolidated revenue fund.

Optus vice president for people and culture Kate Aitken said the telecommunications company offered “sincere apologies” to it’s staff and had taken steps to avoid a repeat.
“At Optus, we highly value the contributions of our people, and we are committed to ensuring everyone receives their correct entitlements,” she said.

“With the support of external experts, we have calculated the underpayments owed to current and former employees and have made every effort to ensure all entitlements have been or are in the process of being corrected and paid with interest.”

Originally published as Optus signs undertaking to repay $7.8m to thousands of underpaid staff after ‘error’