Employer owed $200,000 as restitution for overpayment

Tables turned for employee who told ERA he was owed redundancy comp, annual leave, expat allowance

Employer owed $200,000 as restitution for overpayment

A former senior employee has been ordered to pay his ex-employer Scott Technology $262,884 as restitution after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found that he was overpaid by over $400,000 during his time at the company.

The employee, Kenneth Snowling, joined the automation and robotic company in 2000, before being promoted to senior roles within the company and its subsidiaries in China and Germany.

He worked for the company's China subsidiary between 2012 and 2016, the ERA heard, while he worked for the company's German subsidiary between 2012 and 2019.

The case began after Snowling was laid off by Scott as part of a company restructure in May 2020, where he would receive a redundancy payment of $128,419 and an accrued leave payment of $19,300.

"Snowling queried the redundancy payment calculation methodology and also raised concerns about Scott's treatment of certain taxation matters while he had been working overseas," said the ERA's court document.

Snowling took the matter to the ERA, claiming that he was entitled to redundancy compensation, annual leave, an "expat" allowance, bonus payments, as well as a contribution to tax-related expenses.

Scott's counterclaims

Scott, however, also had several claims against Snowling regarding overpayment of salary.

The robotics firm denied all of the former staff's monetary claims except for his redundancy and holiday pay, which they are currently withholding amid a pay and tax history audit. 

According to the company, Snowling was "receiving three separate salaries concurrently" when he was working overseas.

Overall, Scott said Snowling was "unjustly enriched" by salary and tax overpayments amounting to $410,604. The company is now seeking to recover this.

Recently, the Full Bench of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission declined to consider an appeal lodged by an employee as it was presented outside of the stipulated timeframe.

ERA's decision

The ERA ruled in favour of Scott on the mistaken payment, but did not accept the company's claim that it had reasonable justification to withhold the former employee's redundancy and holiday pay.

"I find that Mr. Snowling was enriched by mistaken payments made to him by Scott and such enrichment was unjust in circumstance where Mr. Snowling knew or ought to have known that such payments were not due and owing to him," said ERA member Andrew Dallas in his ruling.

Dallas also did not accept that Snowling was entitled to multiple salaries, and dismissed his claims for "expat" allowance, bonus payment, and those in relation to the German tax payment and reimbursement for tax advice in Germany and New Zealand.

"Snowling's contention that he performed three jobs concurrently, occupying 120 hours per week, is simply not sustainable. On the evidence, Mr. Snowling had one job and he performed that single job," he said.

Snowling was then ordered to pay a total of $262,884 as restitution for his former employer, after the ERA deducted $147,710, the total of his redundancy compensation and outstanding holiday pay, from the overall overpayment.

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