Are you being underpaid?

March 11, 2022 News

By Justin Power,
SDA Assistant Secretary

This is the very question that most workers encounter in their working life.

Some examples of where SDA members might be missing out on their correct pay:

  1. Not being paid for compulsory training including online training.

    This is a relatively new phenomenon as many employers have moved away from training only being conducted in the workplace. Quite simply, if you perform compulsory online training away from your workplace, you must be paid for all time worked. If you have not been paid for online training, pursue the matter through the grievance procedure. If you hit a brick wall at store level, please contact the union office and we will pursue the non-payment.
  2. Being paid a salary that doesn’t properly compensate the employee for all hours worked.

    Over the last 30 months, members would be well aware that there has been widespread media coverage concerning large retailers who have underpaid their salaried staff tens of millions of dollars. Just because workers are labelled a salaried manager, it doesn’t mean that they can be underpaid. It is important to note that salaried employees are not Award-exempt. For example, if a supermarket Department Manager’s per annum salary is $65,000, but was entitled to be paid $80,000 under the General Retail Industry Award, then that worker has been underpaid $15,000 over the course of that particular year.
    Over the last 30 months the SDA has recovered millions of dollars for our members concerning this very issue.
  3. Not being paid allowances such as the first aid allowance, laundry allowance, cold work allowance or higher duties allowance.

    Once again, it is important to have an understanding of your legal entitlements. Your Enterprise Agreement or Modern Award has a specific section on allowances. For example, if you have been appointed as a First Aid Officer by management, you should be entitled to a First Aid allowance. I suggest that you have a chat with your manager but if you keep encountering road blocks, please contact the union office and we will pursue the non-payment through the grievance procedure.
  4. Not being classified correctly.

    All Enterprise Agreements and Modern Awards have a classification structure. A classification structure invariably has an entry or base level and then progresses through the different levels until the management level is reached. In some Enterprise Agreements, there is also an experience component within the classification structure. Over the years, the Union has successfully pursued thousands of underpayments of members who have been incorrectly classified.
  5. Working through your rest or meal breaks.

    Working through rest or drink breaks is particularly rife in the fast food industry. Fast food outlets are notorious for not adhering to the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement rest breaks and meal break entitlements. Recently, some fast food companies have gained ‘bad press’ for breaching the Award by not allotting the necessary time for employees to take their entitled breaks. This issue is still being pursued in the courts and affected members will be advised when the court’s verdict is delivered.
  6. Working before your rostered shift begins or after your rostered shift and not being paid for such time.

Just imagine…

At morning tea, you walk down to the bakery in your store, pick up a couple of cakes, go to the lunch room and eat them. Then, at lunch time, you pop down to the bakery again and pick up a couple of buns and some tomato, lettuce and cheese sandwiches, and eat them.

And for all of this, you don’t pay a thing. This is highly illegal, and I have a funny feeling that you may not have your job for long if you did this!

So, once again, let us imagine…

You arrive at work and start 30 minutes early. You are so busy at morning tea time you miss your break. You are sitting in the lunch room at lunch time, but are called back to work because it’s so busy. You are ready to pack up and two more customers slip into your register. You then sign off 15 minutes late.

Then you receive your pay at the end of the week, and there is no additional money. When you check up on this, you find that all unauthorised overtime (as the company sees it) was crossed out even though your manager knew you were working additional hours.

Is one scenario worse than the other? You decide.

Members would be pleased to know that the Union has been highly successful in pursuing back pay claims similar to the above example. Importantly, the manager knew that the member was working additional hours yet wasn’t prepared to pay for the additional time worked.