By James Atkinson
Simple human error was behind the alleged breaches of federal workplace laws by New South Wales bottleshops uncovered recently, according to the Liquor Stores Association of NSW (LSA NSW).
The Fair Work Ombudsman checked the books of 178 liquor retailers in metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW last year to assess compliance with the General Retail Industry Award 2010.
The audit (see full report here) found that 100 employers (56 per cent) were found to be compliant with federal workplace laws, while 78 (44 per cent) recorded wages, penalty rate, pay-slip and record-keeping contraventions.
Fair Work inspectors identified 45 businesses that had collectively underpaid 133 of their employees a total of $107,406.
Responding to the report, LSA NSW said it had been advised by some members who were audited that genuine human errors had been identified when applying the complex matrix of award rates, and that these have now been rectified.
"Conversely we also understand some calculation errors were identified where payments to employees were in excess of their entitlements," the association said.
"We note that of the 78 cases in question around one third of them did not involve any financial disadvantage for workers, but were administrative or technical errors, for issues as simple as their ABN not appearing on a payslip."
LSA NSW said that in some cases its members were originally advised that they had made errors by the Ombudsman, which subsequently changed its view upon reviewing the circumstances of the alleged breaches.
"Some business owners reported they had responded and paid the increased rate immediately when advised by the Ombudsman, only to subsequently seek professional advice and find they have now paid in excess of the employees’ entitlements," the association added.
LSA NSW CEO Terry Mott said: "While we supported the process we are now somewhat disappointed that we are left waiting on details of the report, to understand how many of the reported cases were members and how we can further assist those members to comply."
LSA NSW reminded members that they have free ongoing access to the LSA NSW Industrial Relations Hot Line.
"While we recognise human errors can be made, members are encouraged to use the service to check and ensure they conform with their obligations to their employees."