FWO to Investigate RSPCA Over Underpayment of Staff

Published October 21, 2019 (last updated July 29, 2020)

Animal welfare organisation RSPCA NSW are under investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for the underpayment of staff after it was revealed the charity received millions in funding by the NSW government.

The inquiry comes after revelations that the chief of staff of NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, Sarah Cruickshank, was on the board for the RSPCA for a substantial amount of the decade that the underpayments took place.

In 2015, the charity received close to $1 million in funding from the government, and over $600,000 in 2016.

A spokesperson for the animal organisation said their annual and financial reports for the RSPCA NSW are available on their website.

Ms Cruickshank has declined to comment.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman will conduct inquiries in relation to this matter. Any workers with concerns about their pay should contact us directly,” an FWO spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Two years ago, a payroll manager warned the organisation of the underpayment of staff across a number of areas.

Earlier in the year the RSPSA hired accountants from global consultancy firm Herbert Smith Freehills and launched an internal investigation to look over their database and examine the problem.

The accountants discovered over 1600 past and present staff who were at risk of being underpaid, with a $220,000 bill to rectify the situation.

Underpayment of staff has been a big issue in Australia in recent times, with more pressure for businesses and organisations to pay their employees the correct wage.

Earlier this month Perth conglomerate Wesfarmers were found to have underpaid workers by an estimated $15 million after almost a decade of payroll errors.

In September, Sunglass Hut were another Australian company found to have underpaid 620 employees approximately $2.3 million. The retailer was required to repay outstanding wages, issue a formal apology and make a contrition payment of $50,000.

The FWO also recently investigated Subway franchises in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, in which over $81,000 in unpaid wages for 167 current and past employees from 22 franchises was recovered.

Federal Labor frontbencher Tony Burke has called on the RSPCA to move swiftly and fully compensate any staff that has been underpaid that “every Australian worker has a right to be paid what they are owed.”

“All employers, whether multinational giants or non-for-profit charities, must pay their staff properly,” Mr Burke said.

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