Union wants national aged care pay audit after two operators found to have underpaid staff

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The Health Services Union (HSU) has called for a pay audit of the sector after two of its largest Not For Profits were found to have underpaid staff by over $4.5 million.

More than 2,000 aged care workers at BaptistCare NSW & ACT were underpaid $1.27 million over a period of six years to 12 July 2018.

BaptistCare – which found the errors after a July 2019 review and self-reported the issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman in November 2019 – tells us that all 2,140 staff “who were found to be entitled to back payments have (since) received full reimbursement”,

The operator also found it had overpaid workers $1.37 million during this same period, which they say they will not recoup. They have also paid a $40,000 penalty.

The news comes just a week after the Ombudsman revealed another NSW Not For Profit, Uniting, was found to have underpaid over 9,500 aged care staff by $3.3 million over a period of six years.

Staff at its Penrith facility first brought the issue to Uniting’s attention, who then self-reported the underpayment after they discovered the problem was widespread.

All current staff have since been reimbursed and Uniting have been ordered to set up a hotline and email address for former staff who believe they are entitled to a payment.

HSU president Gerard Hayes told The Sydney Morning Herald: “This is enough for the Fair Work Ombudsman to go for a large-scale audit in aged care to see if people are being paid appropriately.”

Both operators have issued statements of apology and regret for the errors, which are being blamed on outdated systems, unintentional oversights, and miscalculations of annual leave, loading and various allowances including uniform, laundry, vehicle and travel.

Industrial Relations Minister and Attorney-General Christian Porter said the ombudsman would independently determine whether the sector required an audit and “no doubt it will be carefully considering that option”.