CouriersPlease in underpayment enforceable undertaking

Paid meal break ‘oversight’ affecting 245 staff being rectified

CouriersPlease in underpayment enforceable undertaking
The issue affected 245 freight-handling and depot staff


Parcels firm CouriersPlease (CP) has admitted to not providing paid meal breaks to freight-handling and depot staff under the Road Transport and Distribution Industry Award, equating to $382,065 over eight years.

The significant breach resulted in a Court-Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) at a time when scrutiny on employee pay and conditions has never been more acute and calls to criminalise shortcomings have never been louder.

After being prompted by a query from an employee last year, CP conducted an internal audit and found that it had not provided a 20-minute paid meal break to 245 current and former employees performing shift work across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, the FWO reports.

CP admits to breaching workplace laws, which first occurred when implementing an electronic payroll system in 2010, until the issue was identified last year.

The FWO notes more than $360,000 has been back-paid with individual amounts ranging from less than $10 to more than $19,000. Outstanding amounts relate to employees yet to be located.

CP, a fully owned subsidiary of Singapore Post, apportions the blame to a payroll oversight but tells ATN it has taken steps to rectify the situation.

"With the aim of providing best-practice last-mile delivery services to millions of Australians, CouriersPlease has evolved as a company in recent years," a spokesperson says.

"During this time, a proportion of our employees have transitioned from ordinary hours to shift work. Regrettably, in this period, a payroll oversight occurred in which the 20-minute meal break was unpaid to those employees.

"As soon as CP became aware of the oversight, we voluntarily alerted the Fair Work Ombudsman.

"We have identified and apologised to all affected past and present employees.

"To date, we have back-paid more than 90 per cent of affected employees, and are in the final stages of our correspondence with, and back-payments to, former employees.

Couriers Please notes it is working with the FWO to ensure it has taken all necessary actions to rectify the underpayment and ensure such an oversight does not occur in the future.

"This includes Fair Work-approved training to all CP employees responsible for management, recruitment, payroll and human resources; annual Fair Work-approved audits of our compliance with all Commonwealth workplace laws and instruments; and regular reporting to Fair Work with regards to our payment obligations to depot and freight employees.

"CP prides itself on being a positive and rewarding workplace that complies with all of its obligations. This was an unintentional oversight which we deeply regret."

CouriersPlease appointed a process improvement leader last year

Fair Work ombudsman Sandra Parker says the commitment to back-paying workers meant a court-enforceable undertaking was an appropriate course of action.

"This matter serves as a warning to all employers that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk failing to meet your lawful obligations to your employees every shift they work over many years, and facing a hefty back-payment bill," Parker says.

"The Court-Enforceable Undertaking commits Couriers Please 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."

In addition to the compliance measures, the company will make a gesture of contrition through a $50,000 payment to the federal government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.


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