Over $300,000 in underpaid wages recovered for quarantine hotel security staff

security company
Image of two male security Guards with bright tops on.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $303,299 for 1010 underpaid security personnel who provided security at COVID-19 quarantine hotels in Melbourne and Sydney after Fair Work inspectors audited 37 security businesses last year to check their compliance with workplace laws, including 23 companies providing security in Melbourne and 16 in Sydney.

Inspectors found that 15 businesses were non-compliant, which necessitated the FWO action, with 11 operating in Melbourne and four in Sydney. In detail, 11 of the 15 businesses underpaid their workers (including two principal contractors), five had failed to meet payslip and record-keeping requirements, and one failed to comply with a Notice to Produce records and was issued a formal caution.

The inspectors also noted failures to pay penalty rates, followed by failures to pay correct annual or personal leave entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the audit results showed the security industry needed to sharpen its focus on its employment responsibilities.

“We expect all businesses at all levels of a supply chain to meet their obligations under workplace laws so that workers are paid the wages and entitlements they are lawfully owed,” Parker said.

In total, $288,938 was recovered for 665 employees in Melbourne and $14,361 for 345 employees in Sydney. All affected employees were engaged as security guards or supervisors.

Amounts back-paid from individual businesses ranged from $207,681 for 333 employees to $312 for one employee. The FWO also issued 10 Compliance Notices, which recovered $302,281. There was also $1018 recovered from one business following a contravention letter. There were five Infringement Notices issued for breaches of payslip laws, resulting in $11,166 in fines paid.

Unified Security Group Australia Pty Ltd was a principal contractor in both the NSW and Victorian hotel quarantine programs and admitted they owed unpaid entitlements to staff in Sydney (estimated to be approximately $900,000). The FWO issued a Compliance Notice requiring Unified to backpay those employees but the company went into liquidation in May this year.

Non-compliant businesses were advised that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.