Charles Sturt University has commissioned an independent, external review of staff payments in response to widespread reports of underpayment in the higher education sector.
We initiated this review as part of our governance process to ensure accurate financial management and correct staff payments, not as a requirement from TEQSA, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Taxation Office.
The potential underpayment of staff is a serious concern to Charles Sturt and the University will rectify any underpayment of staff. Modifications to systems and processes have been finalised to address issues identified in this review.
Affected staff (current and former) will be notified from August 2022, and any underpayments will be rectified.
About the program
Why did Charles Sturt commission a review of staff payments? chevron_right
The University commissioned an independent, external review of staff payments in response to widespread reports of underpayment in our sector.
We initiated this review ourselves as part of our governance process to ensure accurate financial management and correct staff payments. It was not a requirement from TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Taxation Office.
What were the findings of the review? chevron_right
The review found no deliberate underpayment of staff. However, issues of under-and over-payment relating to misclassification of academic work were detected, together with some issues related to minimum engagement for academic and professional staff.
What is the time period in which underpayments are being reviewed? chevron_right
The review period is from 1 July 2015 to 9 June 2022.
Who initiated this review? chevron_right
Charles Sturt initiated this review in July 2020, as part of good governance and has acted proactively.
We have engaged with the Fair Work Ombudsman who have endorsed our approach.
The Audit Office of New South Wales have audited our initial calculations and have endorsed our calculations and approach.
How did the underpayments happen? chevron_right
The underpayments were unintentional errors, largely a result of mistakes in interpreting the Enterprise Agreements. Some aspects of salary administration are distributed across the University, which has resulted in differences in interpretation of the Enterprise Agreements in place during this period.
What types of underpayments have been found? chevron_right
- Minimum engagement: There are minimum hours professional staff are entitled to be employed depending on their circumstances. These requirements were not always met. The rules are different in the various agreements in place during the review period. Assessments were made on the basis of the rules in place when the payment was made. When reviewing the data, whenever the circumstances were unclear (for example if the activity was on or off campus), we have made assumptions in the employee’s favour to be on the safe side (for example, that the activity was on campus).
- Qualifications: Casual academics with a relevant PhD or equivalent should have been paid at the qualified rate. Sometimes this clause was misinterpreted as being related to the requirements of the task rather than the qualifications of the person.
- Preparation time: Several forms of classes (e.g. lectures, tutorials) have associated hours of preparation determined by the Enterprise Agreement. There were instances where the preparation hours were not interpreted correctly. For example, the definition of repeat was sometimes not interpreted as tightly as the definition provided in the Enterprise Agreement. In some cases, the Other Academic Activity rate, which does not include preparation, was used instead of lecture or tutorial rates which include associated working time. When reviewing the data, it was sometimes not clear what activity had occurred, and so we decided in the employee’s favour whenever that occurred. When impacted staff are notified of their underpayments, this category will be split into Repeat and Other Academic Activity (OAA).
- Significant vs standard marking: We teach a wide variety of subjects. Assessments and hence marking can thus vary. The Enterprise Agreement defines two levels of marking - standard and significant. Previously, there were inconsistencies in the way schools approached marking. Rather than look at every assessment conducted in the period, we used rules based on Australian Quality Framework (AQF) to determine when to apply the significant marking rate. Using these rules, there were cases where the significant rate was not used, but it should have been.
What mitigating steps have been taken to ensure staff are not still being underpaid? chevron_right
The review has highlighted opportunities for improvements in our systems and processes, to help increase transparency and reduce the risk of any staff member misinterpreting our approved processes, Enterprise Agreement or Workload Policies.
We are currently progressing with improvements to systems and policies - which is an important step to ensure increased confidence in our processes and help Charles Sturt avoid similar reviews in the future.
Some of the changes we have made (connected to the different underpayment scenarios) are set out below.
- Minimum engagement: The issue will be detected and corrected when timesheets are submitted.
- Qualifications: The contract system will now automatically apply qualified rate if you have a relevant qualification in the system. (Staff should update their registration if their qualifications change).
- Preparation time: The contract system will look for some issues and require workload planners to fix them before the contract is issued.
- Standard vs Significant marking: Rules in relation to significant marking will be automatically applied when creating a contract.
Were there any overpayments found? chevron_right
Yes, there were many instances of overpayments found.
However, we will not seek to recover any of these past overpayments, nor will we use them to offset any underpayments.
Who were the employees affected by these payroll anomalies? chevron_right
Casual academics and casual professional/general staff who worked for Charles Sturt between 1 July 2015 and 9 June 2022.
How many employees have been impacted? chevron_right
Underpayments were identified for 2,526 current and former staff. 75% of the payments were less than $1,000
How will I know if I’ve been impacted? chevron_right
We will contact all current and former staff who have been affected by underpayments. Former staff will be asked to verify their identity prior to any payments being made.
Is there a process for complaints? chevron_right
I have questions regarding the Wage Remediation Program. Who do I contact? chevron_right
Where can I find more information about the enterprise agreement? chevron_right
What years are payments being made for? chevron_right
1 July 2015 - 9 June 2022.
Do I have to do anything to prove my claim? chevron_right
No, Charles Sturt has done the work to substantiate any underpayments.
How have you calculated my payment? chevron_right
The calculation methodology has been designed by an independent party and validated with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Affected staff will be given a breakdown of the underpayments and the years to which they relate.
We completed our calculations based on the following steps:
- We first determined the reason for the underpayment and calculated how much should have been paid based on the correct interpretation of the Charles Sturt University Enterprise Agreement in place at the time.
- We have applied the agreed superannuation rate to the underpayment.
- Finally, in recognition of the fact that affected staff have not had access to these funds, we have applied an additional interest rate of 4.85%. on the underpayment figure. We have applied this value based on the Federal Court of Australia’s pre-judgment interest rate. See Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest rates (fedcourt.gov.au). We have also applied 10% interest on the superable component of the underpayment. The interest on superannuation will be paid directly to the super fund.
How much money can I expect to be repaid? chevron_right
Calculations will be based on the individual circumstances of each staff member, and affected staff will be advised in writing of the details of their gross payment. The net payment will be available on the person’s payslip. Current staff can access their payslip via Web Kiosk. The University will send payslips to former staff by email.
What do I do if I don’t agree with the payment amount that has been determined? chevron_right
When will I receive my payment? chevron_right
Payments will be made to affected staff in stages commencing August 2022.
Could I receive more than one payment? chevron_right
We are planning just one payment at this stage, but we will contact you again if required.
What are the financial implications of the payment? chevron_right
PAYG taxation will be withheld using the relevant tax schedule:
We recommend seeking independent financial advice about your own personal circumstances in terms of tax, superannuation and government benefits.
How is superannuation going to be paid? chevron_right
The superable component of the underpayment will be paid directly into your nominated fund, together with the interest applicable to super. In the event that an affected former staff member is deceased, the payment will be made to their estate.
Additional questions for former staff
I am a former employee and I think I am affected but have not received any correspondence from the University. What do I need to do? chevron_right
The University has reviewed all payments made in the relevant time period and will contact affected former staff.
If you have not been contacted by the end of September and you think we have missed something, you can raise your concern via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a former staff member. How do I submit my up-to-date contact details? chevron_right
You can add your details into the Online Form using the link we sent you via email.
Where do I send my documents/information? chevron_right
In most cases, we won’t need any documentation, just for you to confirm some details with us. However, if you have a self-managed super fund or you have changed your name since you left Charles Sturt, you will need to provide documentation.
I no longer have a superannuation account as I am now retired. Can the University make the payment to a different account? chevron_right
Australian legislation around Superannuation Guarantee requires that employer superannuation payments are made to a complying superannuation fund. If you no longer have an account, you will need to set up a new one to receive the payment.
I no longer live in Australia, have an Australian bank account or am a resident for tax purposes. Can I still get the payment? chevron_right
If a former employee is not an Australian citizen and work was performed offshore, payment should be processed via Accounts Payable to an international bank account.
Work performed onshore is taxable in Australia - if an Australian bank account is not provided, salary will be paid into a clearing account. Payroll will raise an international payment via Accounts Payable.
How will the University deal with deceased estates? chevron_right
Where a payment is owed to a former employee who has passed away, the amount will be payable to the deceased's estate. Confirmation of authority to act on behalf of the estate will be required.