Cotton On has back-paid 3,289 of its employees a combined amount of more than $278,000 after it was discovered the company had failed to pay staff for attending training out of working hours.
An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found that the retail giant had contravened workplace laws when it failed to pay staff attending training sessions and staff meetings between February and December 2008.
The back-pay – an average of $84.56 per employee – was voluntarily repaid by Cotton On, which has also promised that it will ensure future compliance with the Fair Work Act.
As part of the Enforceable Undertaking – a measure being used by the Fair Work Ombudsman as an alternative to litigation - Cotton On must:
· Post an apology to staff (signed by the Chief Executive Officer) at all its stores, on its website and on the company’s Facebook wall
· Ensure its human resources managers undertake workplace relations compliance training within three months
· Provide a written report to the Fair Work Ombudsman each year for the next three years to illustrate that staff are being paid correctly and identifying any proactive compliance measures
As part of the agreement, Cotton On acknowledges that there was sufficient evidence and public interest to justify the Fair Work Ombudsman initiating legal action against the company.
In its apology to staff, Cotton On “expresses its sincere regret and apologises to all past and present employees for failing to comply with its lawful obligations” and gives a commitment that such conduct “will not occur again”.