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Ipswich private schools owe staff more than $2 million in back pay

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St Peter’s Lutheran College in Queensland will back-pay staff more than $2 million and has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

 The college is a non-government, co-educational school with  campuses in  Springfield, and Ipswich, each registered as a charity and together employing more than 500 staff. 

 It self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman in November 2020, disclosing underpayments of its co-curricular sports staff working as coaches and coordinators at both campuses.

 The college believed it could engage the staff as volunteers while paying them lump sums of money in recognition of their time and expertise. In 2020, having received external legal advice that these were employment relationships, the college asked a law firm to conduct an audit and calculate any underpayments, with an accounting firm checking the methodology.  

 The college has admitted it breached the Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award (2010 and 2020) and the 2009, 2013 and 2016 versions of the Queensland Lutheran Schools Single Enterprise Agreement. Contraventions related to minimum rates of pay, casual loading, weekend penalty rates, overtime, vehicle allowances, a failure to apply pay-point progression, and breaches of record-keeping obligations. 

 A total of $2,460,519.59, including interest and superannuation will be back-paid to 753 current and former employees who were underpaid between July 2012 and December 2020. Individual underpayments, excluding interest and superannuation, ranged from less than $3 to $37,719. More than 98 per cent of the underpayments related to staff of the Indooroopilly campus. 

 The college has back-paid a total of $1,903,646.55, including interest and superannuation, to 631 workers and apologised to them. It has taken steps to rectify underpayments for the remaining 122 employees, and the EU requires the organisation to pay all amounts owing within 30 days of the EU’s execution. 

 Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the college had demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments after identifying errors in how it engaged its workers.

 “Under the Enforceable Undertaking, St Peter’s Lutheran College has committed to implementing stringent measures to protect the rights of its workforce. These measures include providing the FWO with information about its new processes for ensuring compliance in future, and engaging an independent auditor to conduct audits across two years of its compliance with workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

 “The matter demonstrates the importance of employers correctly defining how they engage workers and ensuring they get appropriate advice early. Any employer who needs assistance meeting their obligations should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice,” Ms Parker said. 

 Under the EU, St Peter’s Lutheran College must publish a notice on its website about the EU. The college must also make a $20,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

 Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free workplace advice. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

 Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au external-icon.png or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au external-icon.png.

 Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/emailupdates.

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