One of Australia’s largest toy retailers has underpaid more than 1000 young employees a total of almost $1 million.
Workers at the toy stores will receive $998,000 in backpay after an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman into breaches of workplace laws.
The investigation found NSW workers were among those paid below minimum hourly rates, weekend, holiday and night-shift penalty rates between 2007 and 2009.
Some of the workers were only 14 years of age.
Fair Work Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said the scale of the under-payments was one of the largest encountered by his investigators.
“An extraordinary number of young and vulnerable employees were underpaid a large amount of money, which we are pleased has now been voluntarily paid to them as a result of this investigation,” he said.
“We accept that the contraventions were inadvertent, rather than deliberate, and we are pleased to have negotiated a significant enforceable undertaking with the company that will result in the prosecution being discontinued.”
The company must set up a whistleblower hotline for its staff to complain about wages and conditions and ensure that it investigates any such complaints.
The company has also agreed to donate a total of $300,000 towards the cost of educating and training young workers and protecting their rights while at work.
In its letter of apology to staff, the company said the underpayments occurred as a result of “inadequate processes” and “inadequate governance measures” and expressed “sincere regret”.
Since the contraventions took place, new management has been appointed to human resources and the company has taken a number of steps to ensure that this does not occur again, the letter says.
A company spokeswoman said all employees affected by the pay discrepancies had received complete restitution.