Commonwealth Bank staff underpayment bill hits $53m

Commonwealth Bank will hand over as much as $53.1 million it owes staff in unpaid entitlements.

Dec 13, 2019, updated Dec 13, 2019
Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

The nation’s biggest lender has been reviewing employee entitlements since 2017, and broadened the investigation last year to include payroll.

CBA has so far notified or repaid approximately 41,000 current and former employees with $13.2 million of backpay plus interest, with a further $14.9 million to follow by the end of next week.

The bank on Friday said it expects to make a further $25 million in remaining payments by the end of the financial year.

“It is unacceptable that some of our people were not paid the correct entitlements,” CBA chief executive Matt Comyn said in a release.

“This should never have happened and I apologise to anyone impacted by these past errors.”

CBA – which reported a cash profit of $8.49 billion in FY19 – said the issue came to light after the bank commenced a review in 2017 of superannuation payable to part-time employees working additional hours at single-time rates.

The installation of a new payroll system in March 2018 helped the bank support a broader review of employee entitlements, with the first assessments made under that review and payments made to affected staff beginning in December last year.

Shares in CBA were 0.97 per cent higher at $80.49 after 30 minutes of trade on Friday.

The firm’s backpay update comes after an assessment last month by PwC that Australian workers were being dudded out of an estimated $1.35 billion in underpaid wages every year.

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A rash of wage-theft scandals have made headlines recently as hundreds of millions in unpaid entitlements surface across listed companies such as Woolworths, Qantas, Wesfarmers, Super Retail group and Michael Hill Jewellers.

Just this week popular burger chain Grill’d was accused of paying staff a “rock-bottom” hourly rate, while making them feel they must undertake a traineeship to work there.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also tackled high-profile hospitality figures including George Calombaris, Heston Blumenthal, Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi, with Calmobaris alone found to have underpaid 500 current and former workers $7.8 million.

CBA – which says it is working closely with the Ombudsman and Financial Services Union – has examined 10 million payslips, accounting for over one billion hours worked and covered 250,000 current and former employees going back to 2010.


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