RSPCA signs undertaking with FWO to back-pay over $200k to staff

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The NSW branch of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA NSW) has committed to back-paying more than $220,000 to its staff as it signed an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The EU comes in the wake of an investigation by the FWO into the not-for-profit animal welfare organisation in 2019 after the organisation publicly acknowledged that it had underpaid workers between 2011 and 2020.

The affected employees were underpaid entitlements under the Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2010 and a collective agreement, including annual leave, public holiday entitlements, Christmas bonuses and superannuation. They worked in metropolitan and regional areas across NSW, which included inspectorate, animal welfare support and veterinarian service employees.

A total of 458 current and former employees are owed $222,352.10 (including $203,985.14 in wages and a further $18,366.96 in interest and superannuation). Individual back-payments range from less than $2 to more than $7000.

An EU allows the FWO to closely monitor the implementation of a range of reforms to ensure this does not happen again. RSPCA NSW had co-operated with the investigation and demonstrated a commitment to rectifying underpayments. Under the EU, the organisation is required to back-pay entitlements for all employees within the next 60 days.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker commented that an EU was appropriate because workers at the RSPCA were underpaid over nearly 10 years.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, RSPCA NSW has committed to implementing stringent measures to ensure workers are being paid correctly. These measures include engaging, at the company‚Äôs own cost, audits of its compliance with workplace laws over the next three years,” Parker said. “The underpayments were the result of payroll errors and RSPCA NSW not having adequate payment systems and governance processes in place. This matter demonstrates how important it is for employers to place a high priority on workplace compliance and to perform regular payroll checks.”

The EU also requires RSPCA NSW to display workplace notices detailing its workplace law breaches, apologise to workers, commission workplace relations training for staff in payroll and Human Resources, commission an independent organisation to operate a Hotline for employees for three months, and provide evidence that it has developed systems and processes for ensuring compliance in future.