Red Cross ordered to pay back staff $25m

·1-min read

Red Cross Australia has been ordered by the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay back $25 million in underpaid wages.

The organisation's humanitarian arm and blood donation division largely underpaid employees by applying the incorrect award or enterprise agreement, or by believing some employees lay outside of the award.

The underpayments range from less than $100 to more than $20,000 between 2010 and 2021.

More than 10,000 employees in the humanitarian division were underpaid around $22 million between 2012 and 2021.

Red Cross self-reported the underpayment to the ombudsman in 2018, and a subsequent investigation also found underpayments in the Lifeblood division.

Up to 1160 Lifeblood employees were underpaid $3.5 million in leave entitlements, shift work and public holiday rates, overtime, superannuation and minimum pay rates between 2010 and 2021.

The organisation has entered into two enforceable undertakings with the ombudsman and has since paid back more than $10 million.

It has until February 21 next year to repay the remaining amount, plus interest and superannuation.

The undertakings include engaging, at its own cost, an expert auditing firm to check its workplace law compliance for the next two to three years and setting up an independent hotline to assist staff.

The organisation apologised for the error in an email to staff and reiterated the underpayments were unintentional.

"I acknowledge this process has taken longer than hoped, but it has been important in order to resolve this properly and fully," chief executive Kym Pfitzner wrote.

"I thank current and former employees and their families for their understanding."

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