In a recent investigation into wage payment irregularities at SOE Landcorp, the Labour Inspector found significant issues. The Inspector determined that over the last seven years Landcorp had been incorrectly calculating the entitlements of approximately 1,400 employees.
There appear to be two main areas where Landcorp incorrectly calculated the entitlements:
a) Landcorp did not include the employee’s accommodation allowance into the calculation of gross earnings. This had a flow on impact to the calculation for sick, annual, bereavement and public holiday leave.
b) Landcorp breached the minimum wage for employees who were on salary, but worked long hours during peak season.
The amount owed to 1,400 former and current employees is approximately $2.4 million.
Employers can take several lessons from this decision.
Firstly, even if the employer uses a payroll system to calculate entitlements, it is up to the employer to ensure that the payroll system is calculating this correctly. In Landcorp’s case the payroll system incorrectly excluded the accommodation allowance from the gross salary calculation. MBIE have stated that at the end of June 2017 it has 140 cases which it categorised as payroll audits. Of those 118 had been investigated which led to 53 enforceable undertakings, 29 improvement notices and 2 cases lodged with the ERA.
Secondly, where employers have salaried employees on lower salary levels (less than $55,000 at present) and those employees are working long hours over a peak period of work, the employer must calculate the weekly/fortnightly pay ensure that employee is paid above the minimum wage for every hour they work in that week/fortnight.