Here’s a running list of Australian businesses that have underpaid staff in 2019

Source: Getty Images

Dozens of local and national business have had to front up millions in back pay to employees that had been underpaid and exploited.

As 2019 comes to a close, there has been one issue that has haunted Australian businesses - unpaid wages, overtime and superannuation.

Here’s a running list of all the Australian businesses that have been been found to be underpaying their staff this year.

UPDATE 9/12/19:

Fast food chain Grill'd has been accused of underpaying staff by as much as $4.23 an hour under the guise of a 'traineeship'.

While the traineeships were not compulsory, many workers have reported feeling pressured into the position.

More than 750 Grill'd employees have completed their qualifications in the past 12 months, with 31 per cent of the company's staff listed as trainees, a Grill's spokeswoman said.

Ninety-two per cent of 370 current and former Grill'd workers surveyed in 2018 by an Australian University Union student group reportedly said the traineeship wasn't worth it.

Grill'd argue it's not doing anything wrong by its staff merely upskilling them.

Heavy hitters

ABC: Back in January of this year, the ABC admitted that they may have been underpaying around 2,500 casual staff over the last six years.

In a statement to staff, ABC’s chief people officer Rebekah Donaldson said that “penalties, allowances and loadings” that should have been awarded to casual staff were overlooked.

This was revealed after the ABC admitted that a casual employee in Brisbane was underpaid by $19,000 in December 2018.

Qantas: In February, Qantas came out to say that "an error, plain and simple" had caused 55 of their workers to be underpaid by an average of $8,000 over a period of several years.

Qantas claimed that most of these underpayments came from its digital marketing and analytics departments. The workers were reimbursed with interest and a $1,000 ex-gratia payment.

At the same time, the company revealed that they had overpaid approximately 165 other workers by around $12,000 a year.

Super Retail Group: The umbrella group that owns Rebel Sport, Supercheap Auto, BCF and more, admitted to not paying managers overtime to the tune of $32 million.

Underpayments took place over six years and affected around 3,000 current and former employees.

In addition to the back pay, Super Retail Group had to pony up $11 million worth of interest and payroll tax.

In recognition of the "significance of this underpayment", former chief executive Peter Birtles brought his departure date from the company forward from March 31 to February 20.

Commonwealth Bank: “Errors in the system” is what Commonwealth Bank blamed for underpaying over 8,000 staff to back in April.

The missed payments date back up to ten years, including wages and superannuation totalling up to $15 million.

In once case, the entire staff of BankWest, a subsidiary of Commonwealth, just flat out missed a day of payment.

Michael Hill: July swung round and jewellery chain Michael Hill announced that it would be making $25 million worth of repayments to current and former employees.

A review into the company’s payment practices found that there were errors in the application of the retail award wage over the last six years.

MAdE Establishment: Former Masterchef judge George Calombaris became the poster boy of wages scandal in July when his hospitality empire pack paid over $7.8 million in wages and superannuation.

524 employees at MAdE operations Press Club, Gazi, Hellenic Republic and affiliated chain Jimmy Grants were affected between 2011 to 2017.

The company was also ordered to make a $200,000 'contrition payment' under a court-enforceable undertaking made with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Sunglass Hut: The Fair Work Ombudsman ordered Luxottica Retail Australia, otherwise known as Sunglass Hut, to pay back $2.3 million to current and former employees.

Over 620 staff across Australia were affected, with reimbursements from failing to pay overtime rates ranging from $4 to $42,912.

As of September this year, Sunglass Hut has repaid $1.5 million to 457 staff. They also have committed to donating a $50,000 ‘contrition’ payment to the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

Bunnings: The homeware company issued a statement in September explaining the part-time workers had been underpaid superannuation.

Bunnings refused to reveal how much the payments amounted to, although it is understood that a majority of affected workers are owed less than $200 in unpaid super.

Rockpool Dining Group: Fellow celebrity chef Neil Perry followed in Calombaris’ footsteps in October after it was revealed his Rockpool restaurants (Fratelli Fresh, The Bavarian, The Argyle) owed staff over $1.6 million in back pay.

The group initially denied employee claims of underpayment caused by unpaid overtime but confirmed the error while being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Woolworths: One of the more recent companies to fess up to underpaying their staff,  Woolworths has admitted it might owe staff up to $300 million.

The supermarket giant is currently being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman for the alleged underpayment of approximately 5,700 salaried staff over the last nine years. 

Woolworths alleges that they discovered the underpayments in August thanks to a review following complaints by workers.

Other incidents

7-Eleven: A Melbourne franchise was penalised $335,664 in January after a scheme was uncovered where she would require workers to return thousands in wages via in-store drop boxes.

Former manager Ai Ling “Irene” Lin said that the scheme began following public exposure of 7-Eleven underpayments in 2015.

Three employees were underpaid a total of $6,674.

Commonwealth Games: Ten security guards who were contracted to work at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games were awarded over $24,000 in unpaid wages and overtime.

Subway: Subway outlets got hit twice in 2019. One FWA investigation into 22 franchises in New South Wales and Queensland uncovered $81,638 in unpaid wages for 167 employees in October.

In March, a Sydney franchisee was ordered to pay $65,438 in penalties after it was found that he underpaid a Chinese migrant worker $16,345 over two years.

An audit into nine employers contracted to supply security for the games found that none were compliant with workplace laws with some guards waiting months to be paid correctly.

Endota Spa Sydney: A July investigation found that Endota Spa had been making fortnightly deductions from thirteen 457 visa workers pay, totalling $58,025.

The employees were told the money was being kept for their sponsorship process but were assured that they would be repaid after they had worked for long enough at the spa.

The business was ordered to backpay a total of $65,940 including almost $8,000 in unpaid penalty rates and annual leave.

Coffee Club: Fair Work Australia (FWA) ordered a Coffee Club Blacktown franchise to back pay a Korean migrant employee $36,745 in unpaid wages in October.

Foodco: The franchisor of Jamaica Blue and Muffin Break was ordered to back pay 166 employees to the tune of $26,562  after a two year audit of over 4000 stores Australia-wide.

Crust Pizza: Owners of a Hobart Crust Pizza outlet were penalised $104,000, including $9,926 worth of unpaid wages, for discriminating against four migrant workers on November 4th.

Her Fashion Box:  This Sydney fashion start-up was penalised $329,133 in March for a variety of offences including claiming one worker was an unpaid intern when she was, in fact, a party time employee.

The employee, a university-trained graphic designer, worked two days a week for six months as a part of the ‘unpaid internship’.

Global Interactive Operations: This Gold Coast call centre was ordered to back pay 43 employees $77,286 in penalty rates and overtime in August following an audit by FWA.

Sushi Bay: Canberra Sushi Bay owner Rebecca Yi Jeong Shin was penalised $124,416, including $18,671 in underpayments, in July.

22 employees were affected, including four that were under the age of 19.

Sushi 79: Two Queensland sushi stores faced $125,700 in penalties in August including $26,883 worth of unpaid wages and superannuations.

All nine employees affected were South Korean visa holders with a FWA investigation finding that owners did not issue any pay slips.

This is not an exhaustive list. If you need to speak to someone about possibly being underpaid by an employer click here to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

If you believe you have been underpaid by an employer and would like to share your story, you can reach out on

Catch The Feed 8:30pm Thursdays and 5pm Sundays on SBS VICELAND . Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.