Back pay reimbursement means no penalty

A Brisbane company that owns a hotel, spa, shopping complex and several liquor stores has agreed to pay $140,000 in back-pay to 79 of its workers.

Samdoo Corporation has entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman, which will see it reimburse staff, including kitchen hands, chefs, waiting, reception and housekeeping staff, bottleshop attendants, beauty therapists, cleaners and security officers, according to SmartCompany.

Employees were underpaid their minimum hourly rate of pay, casual loadings, weekend penalty rates, evening and public holiday work and overtime rates.

Seven employees were underpaid more than $5000 each, while one worker was owed more than $13,500.

Samdoo is a diverse company located in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba that operates the Diana Plaza Hotel, the Apollo Day Spa within the hotel, the adjacent Princess Plaza shopping complex and retail liquor outlets at Mater Hill, Buranda and Bulimba.

A spokesperson for Samdoo Corporation told SmartCompany the business had no intention of underpaying staff and wages are a priority for the company.

“That’s why we’re paying it,” says the spokesperson. “We didn’t want to fight it. It wasn’t worth fighting over in court.”

The spokesperson says the majority of the underpayments have already been paid.

On top of the back pay, the terms of the enforceable undertaking require Samdoo to apologise to each of the affected staff, as well as undertake workplace relations training and engage independent audits.

M+K Lawyers partner Andrew Douglas told SmartCompany there were several advantages of taking an enforceable undertaking in situations where employers are found to have breached the law.

Douglas says first, it means employers avoid paying a penalty. So in this case, Samdoo only had to pay the back-pay rather than face an additional penalty.

“Secondly, it allows employers to demonstrate a willingness to correct your behaviour,” says Douglas. “You can say, ‘I made an error but I’m fixing it’.”

He says these sort of cases, especially in the hospitality industry, can be damaging to a company’s reputation, but an enforceable undertaking can give you something to take back to your staff, suppliers and other stakeholders.

“It allows you to rebrand as a good employer,” says Douglas.

Douglas says it is very possible that employers underpay workers by accident because Australia’s employment awards are “so hideously complex”.

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