Remote WA carers back-paid $6 million after six-year payroll error
One foster carer working in remote WA with Indigenous children has been back-paid more than $500,000 after their NDIS-registered employer self-disclosed six years of underpayments to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Lifestyle Solutions entered into a court-enforced undertaking with the Ombudsman to back-pay more than $6 million to 124 current and former live-in foster carers who worked mostly with Indigenous children in remote WA under a contract with the Department of Communities.
An internal audit found Lifestyle Solutions underpaid the carers’ overtime rates and weekend penalty rates they were entitled to under the award between 2012 and 2018, with individual amounts ranging from less than $1000 to more than $500,000.
The carers worked at properties owned by the WA government.
On its website, Lifestyle Solutions said its foster carers provided transition, emergency, respite and long-term care.
Carers working under the remote contract were generally paid annual salaries of more than $100,000 but some employees on-call were entitled to annual wages of well over $200,000.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said a court-enforceable undertaking was appropriate because Lifestyle Solutions demonstrated a strong commitment to back-paying workers, but it served as a warning to all employers to prioritise workplace compliance.
“The court-enforceable undertaking commits Lifestyle Solutions to stringent measures to protect their employees, including developing new systems to ensure future compliance, funding external audits over the next two years and rectifying any further underpayments,” she said.
Lifestyle Solutions provides disability and family services right across the country but the Ombudsman said the payment issues were limited to its WA operations.
The company uses a daily roster system in its other locations but the remoteness of its WA locations and staff availability made it unfeasible in WA.
The ombudsman said some back payments were outstanding and former employees who believe they may be impacted should contact Lifestyle Solutions or the ombudsman.
The issue was unlikely to occur again with the company implementing ‘guaranteed annual earnings’ contracts remote WA foster carers, which set their salaries about the high income threshold of $148,700, meaning award entitlements no longer applied.
Lifestyle Solutions and the WA Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk were approached for comment.
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Source: Thanks smh.com