Business

Aussie supermarket Woolworths underpaid staff by up to $281m

Australia's Woolworths Group said it had underpaid thousands of supermarket workers for years and will need to repay as much as A$300 million (S$281 million).

The admission from the country's biggest company by revenue prompted a government agency to say it would investigate Woolworths, as well as a call from an opposition politician for a parliamentary inquiry into what he called "wage theft" in Australia.

The underpayment of workers has emerged as a hot-button issue this year but Woolworths' disclosure is the biggest by far, increasing the odds that the government will be prompted into more action.

Woolworths said a routine internal review found the salaries it had paid to about 5,700 permanent employees failed to take into account an allowance for overtime which they should have received under industrial laws.

"We're unequivocally sorry and we're going to repay the money, no questions asked," said Woolworths chief executive officer Brad Banducci.

Woolworths added that the underpayments may date back to 2010, and said it would contact staff who had left. It plans to start making the repayments by the end of the year.

The grocery giant estimates it will have to repay between A$200 million and A$300 million.

Government agency the Fair Work Ombudsman said it was "shocked that yet another large, publicly listed company has... admitted to breaching Australia's workplace laws on a massive scale". - REUTERS

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