Swim school underpays Bendigo workers more than $214,500

A swim school franchise network has to implement significant workplace law compliance measures after it was found to have underpaid workers across Melbourne and Bendigo over a six-year period.

Paul Sadler Swimland and 12 franchisees have entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman after it was revealed 1308 employees were underpaid a total of $1,425,477 in underpayments between July 2010 and March 2016.

Bendigo workers were underpaid almost $214,544 combined.

As part of the enforceable undertaking, there will be third-party audits of all the swim schools over the next two years to monitor compliance.

The employee underpayments related to breaches of both the Fitness Industry Award 2010 and individual enterprise agreements signed by each of the 12 franchisees in 2013.

It was found the franchisor and franchisees failed to correctly progress employees in accordance with their experience, implement junior employees’ age increments, and apply transitional wage provisions.

Paul Sadler Swimland reported the breaches to the Fair Work Ombudsman in late 2016, by which time it had already calculated the underpayments and begun repaying workers.

The franchisees have since rectified all underpayments and, in addition, paid affected staff an extra 5 per cent voluntary payment.

Paul Sadler Swimland has also made donations of $25,000 each to the Smith Family and Western Chances.

Most workers were swim instructors or administrative staff, and a large proportion being young workers.

Individual underpayments ranged from three cents to $14,891.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s office says the franchisor and franchisees had fully co-operated with the agency in reviewing the issues and entering into the enforceable undertaking.

“While the underpayments in this matter were not deliberate, this has been a significant, expensive wake-up call for Swimland and serves as a clear reminder to those in franchise networks that all are responsible for ensuring workers entitlements’ are met,” acting Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said.