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Employee payments review

Last updated: Thursday 14 April, 2022
In August 2020 the University announced a review of payments made since January 2014 to employees covered by our Enterprise Agreements (2013-17 and 2018-21). The review was in response to the discovery by the University of errors in the payment of some Enterprise Agreement entitlements.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) analysed more than 2.05 million payslips generated by the University between January 2014 and November 2020. This review has taken some time to complete, in order to be as thorough as possible and to capture all staff employed by the University during this time.

The review identified a number of discrepancies between actual payments made to some staff and their entitlements, meaning that some staff did not receive their correct entitlements.

The total value of the wage underpayments made over the review period is $12.75m, representing 0.2% of all payments made to staff during this period. Ninety-five percent of the errors pertained to professional staff, most of whom were employed on a casual basis. The nature of the errors related largely to unclaimed overtime or minimum engagement payments – that is, incorrect gathering and reporting of information rather than automated system errors.

Immediate and swift action is being taken to amend our processes and repay monies owed, including superannuation and interest.

The findings of this review demonstrate that although we have a highly accurate payroll calculation system, our processes need to be significantly improved to ensure data is captured, approved and applied correctly in order to ensure payments reflect all staff entitlements. We have commenced a program of work to implement these changes to processes as soon as possible.

In total, 12,894 current and former staff members have been affected by the payment errors, out of 36,270 staff covered by the review. Over half of the individuals impacted are owed less than $500, 73% are owed less than $1,000 per person, with 5% owed over $5,000.

The majority of errors affected casual professional staff and arose from the incorrect application of either:

  • the 'minimum engagement' entitlement in the Enterprise Agreement, which provides for a casual professional employee to be paid for three hours in most cases, even where a timesheet has been submitted that records that less than three hours was worked; or
  • the overtime entitlement for professional employees for time worked outside the ordinary span of hours or on weekends.

For non-casual professional staff members, the errors mainly relate to the incorrect payment of unclaimed overtime and meal allowance entitlements. A very small number of errors affect academic staff, predominantly non-casuals, and largely relate to the calculation of public holiday and leave entitlements.

Where records were incomplete, assumptions favourable to the employee have been made to identify all possible underpayments.

  • The University compensated all affected current employees in September 2021 by paying identified entitlements owing, including superannuation and interest calculated from the date the error occurred.  Former employees have received correspondence via mail in October 2021 and March 2022 and further follow up via SMS in April 2022. The review has also identified instances of overpayments, and the University will not be seeking recovery of these from any employee. Where an employee has been both underpaid and overpaid for the same work because the wrong entitlement was claimed and paid, the back payment will be the net difference.
  • A small number of payments were identified that require further analysis in order to determine whether any underpayment occurred. This is expected to be completed progressively over the next 6-8 months. Any affected employees will then be individually notified if any back payment is payable.
  • The University is also now reviewing all payments made after the initial reviews were conducted – that is, from November 2020 onwards. Further information will be provided as this review progresses.

Payments of back pay former staff received during the 2021-2022 tax year, including those that relate to earlier financial years, are included on your 2022 PAYG payment summary.

As with any salary, tax has been withheld from payments of back pay in accordance with PAYG withholding rules at a rate prescribed by the ATO.

If you received a remediation payment from the University during the 2021-22 finanical year, you will receive an email from the University prior to 30 June that includes details that you will need to complete your 2021-22 tax return. 

Where applicable, this will include details of  "Lump Sum E" payments. A Lump Sum E is an amount of back pay that accrued, or was payable, more than 12 months before the date of payment and is $1,200 or more. The email will detail the breakdown of the underpayment amount by financial year. 

Lump Sum E payments will need to be reported in your tax return as a lump sum payment. More information about reporting lump sum payments in your tax return is available on the ATO website.

If you are an affected former employee:

The University sent correspondence to your last notified residential address in October 2021 and March 2022, asking you to confirm your identity and current contact details, before the University was able to provide information about payments owing. You were asked to provide details from at least two of the following identification documents: driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate. The eform for identification purposes is available.

Further follow up has commenced in April 2022 via SMS directing you to visit sydney.edu.au/former-employee-details to complete your former employee verification

Frequently asked questions (FAQs):

The review

In August 2020, the University announced it would undertake a detailed review of payments made to all employees covered by the University of Sydney Enterprise Agreement 2018-21 (EA) and its predecessor agreement. The review was commissioned in response to the discovery by the University of errors in the calculation of some employee entitlements.

The review, which has now substantially concluded, identified that these errors predominantly affected casual professional staff and were driven primarily by the incorrect calculation of overtime and minimum engagement entitlements.

Following the review, the University is focusing on improving the understanding of EA obligations among people who allocate and approve work, specifically around these minimum engagement and overtime entitlements. The University is also developing additional system and process controls to support the correct calculation of overtime and other entitlements.

The University apologises for the errors and is committed to both paying staff correctly as well as ensuring every staff member understands their role in achieving payroll compliance.

No. The payment errors identified in the University’s review primarily affected casual professional staff, with a small number of errors affecting academic and non-casual professional staff members. Approximately one-third of all staff included in the scope of the review are affected.

Instances of underpayment were fairly evenly spread across the University’s schools, faculties and professional services units, in proportion with the size of the area and number of employees.

Yes. The University has been engaging with the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to this matter on an ongoing basis since the initial self-disclosure in August 2020. 

Payments

Former employees will be contacted within a few weeks, following communications to current staff. This is a complex process and involves additional identification steps.

The University will send a notification to all affected former staff members to their last known contact address. You can also contact the University's Shared Services Centre on +61 2 9351 2000 to confirm whether you are an affected former employee.

If you think the University may not have your current contact details, please contact the University’s Shared Services Centre on +61 2 9351 2000.

This is being calculated based on your particular circumstances. You will receive the difference between the amount you have already been paid and the amount you should have been paid plus interest calculated from the date the underpayment first occurred. You will receive a written notification of the amount that will be paid to you.

Remediation payments will be made as soon as practicable to affected staff. Due to the complexity of the process and to ensure all payments are made accurately, payments will be made in stages. The University is committed to making all remediation payments in as timely a manner as possible.

Yes. The current payment relates to the period January 2014 to November 2020. The University is also reviewing all payments made after November 2020 so there is a possibility that you may be entitled to a further payment. You will be contacted directly about any future payments if eligible.

No, the University does not provide personal financial advice. You may wish to seek advice from your personal financial advisor.

If you disagree with the amount the University has identified as being owed to you, please contact the University’s Shared Services Centre on +61 2 9351 2000 and a team member will assist with directing your query.

If you would like to receive further or more detailed information about the amount you will be paid, please contact the University’s Shared Services Centre on +61 2 9351 2000 and a team member will assist with directing your query.

Yes, you can contact the University’s Shared Service Centre on +61 2 9351 2000 with queries about this matter and a team member will assist you.

The University will not seek to recover identified overpayments. 

Where a remediation payment is owed to a former employee who is now deceased, the amount will be payable to the deceased's estate.

Superannuation and benefits

Any additional superannuation contribution that is payable in respect of the back payment will be made into your nominated fund or, if no fund has been nominated, into UniSuper, the default fund.

Superannuation is not payable on overtime because payment for work performed outside ordinary hours does not constitute ordinary time earnings.

Services Australia (Centrelink) will be able to advise you about any implications the back payment will have on government benefits.

FAQs for current employees

Answers to additional frequently asked questions for current University of Sydney employees are available on the staff intranet (UniKey log-in required).