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Aust charity pays back millions to staff

A disability services provider is paying back almost $3 million to employees it had underpaid across NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Registered charity Breakthru Pty Ltd reported itself to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the workplace regulator, in 2020 after a series of underpayments were made to its staff.

Breakthru is now back-paying 649 current and former workers a total of $2.75 million under an enforceable undertaking struck with the ombudsman.

The underpayments were made to staff over the six years to 2020, with some individuals to receive back payments of more than $34,000.

Underpaid employees worked at various locations including Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Atherton, Melbourne, Sydney, Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Taree, Tuggerah and Tuncurry.

Affected workers were in disability support and training-and-placement roles.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s office said in a statement that Breakthru had by February paid back almost all of its workers, with less than $47,000 still owing.

The remaining 33 staff must be paid back by the end of March.

“During the process of negotiating a new enterprise agreement, Breakthru became aware that it had incorrectly classified a number of employees under the applicable awards and industrial agreements, resulting in an underpayment of base rates for those employees,” the ombudsman’s office said.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said Breakthru had demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments, and committed to protecting the rights of its workforce.

The charity would would also undertake an audit of its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years.

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