Underpayment claims when employees perform work outside their classifications
The CaseArdlie & Others v Qantas Airways Ltd (2016)
A group of Qantas employees worked as level 5 customer support officers at Adelaide Airport. The employees had worked in the old airport terminal until 2006 when they began working in the new airport terminal. The employees were regularly asked to perform duties that were not in the level 5 pay grade and which they believed were duties at a level 8 pay grade.
In 2013, the employees commenced underpayment claim proceedings in the South Australian Industrial Relations Court. The employees claimed an underpayment spanning 6 years.
The Court examined the employees’ enterprise agreement and decided the employees were not performing work at a grade 5 but rather at a grade 7. Qantas was ordered to pay the employees the difference between a grade 7 and grade 5 over the 6-year claim period.
Underpayments can occur when an employee is required to perform duties that are not in their position description. There is a distinction between asking an employee to perform the occasional additional task to requiring them to constantly do tasks outside their pay grade.
To reduce the risk of an underpayment claim, always check what an employee’s duties are compared with the intended classification to ensure you are paying them correctly.
Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.
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