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University of Melbourne facing court for alleged six-figure underpayments to casual staff

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It’s alleged total underpayments for 14 staff amount to AUD 154,424

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the University of Melbourne is facing hefty fines for allegedly failing to properly pay its casual staff in the Faculty of Arts and making false or misleading records.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken the university to Federal Court alleging that between February 2017 and December 2019, the university breached the Fair Work Act when it failed to pay 14 casual academics for all hours of work at the hourly rates as required under their enterprise agreements.

The university allegedly paid the staff based on ‘benchmarks,’ which varied depending on the school in the faculty, and in some instances paid the staff based on “4,000 words per hour,” or “one hour per student.” The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the university failed to record all hours worked by the casual staff and that some records were kept and made known to some managers within the faculty but made to be false or misleading.

The regulator alleges that the total underpayments for 14 staff amount to AUD 154,424 (USD 106,676) and ranged from AUD 927 (USD 640) to AUD 30,140 (USD 20,820).

The breach of its enterprise agreements was in ‘serious contravention’ of the Fair Work Act beginning 15 September 2017, which is when the serious contravention provisions commenced.

According to the regulating authority, “the University expressly, tacitly, or impliedly authorised the contraventions because of a corporate culture involving the use of marking benchmarks. It is also alleged that a number of specific senior leaders in the faculty knew of the benchmarking practices and that they resulted in employees not being paid for all time spend marking.”

The maximum penalties for serious contraventions are 10 times higher at AUD 630,000 (USD 435,204) per breach. A date for the hearing in federal court has yet to be scheduled.


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