The average Australian worker is putting in almost an extra day’s work every week without pay, according to new data from global payroll leader ADP.

This is the equivalent of $12,600 per year based on the annual average salary.

The survey of almost two thousand Australian workers also revealed that levels of unpaid overtime are on the increase compared to the pre-COVID era.

Workers are giving away an average of 7.3 unpaid hours per week, up from 5.8 pre-pandemic. 

Unpaid overtime includes working during unpaid breaks and starting early or staying late, to regularly putting in several hours of extra work each day for no additional pay.

The increasing numbers of unpaid overtime suggest that potentially thousands of businesses across Australia are breaching changes to Fair Work legislation introduced last year to protect workers.

Kylie Baullo, vice president, Client Service Asia Pacific for ADP, said these overtime hours are unrecorded and therefore unpaid in Australia.

“There’s a greater impact as workers move in and out of lockdowns with the ever-changing health situation in their state,” she said.

Fair Work Annualised Wages legislation introduced in March 2020 provides employers with guidelines to help with capturing hours worked.

The rules require organisations to electronically record the hours employees’ work and reconcile them against the Award and paid salary per pay cycle.

“We are increasingly finding this legislation has passed many by. There’s both a lack of awareness around the legislation, or around what it means to put into practice,” Baullo said.

“Implementing the legislation is a challenge for small and large employers alike. For small businesses, the challenges lie around HR systems, capabilities or capacity. For larger organisations, it’s the complexity of working across such a large workforce, and multiple awards.”

Depending on what state an employer is based in, the consequences of underpaying employees range from a financial penalty all the way to criminal conviction.

The State of Victoria introduced new wage theft laws just last month (July 2021).

“It is now a criminal offence for an employer in Victoria to deliberately underpay employees or dishonestly withhold employee entitlements. We expect other states to follow,” Baullo said.

“This Fair Work change has introduced that requirement and COVID has made it even more complex.

“A year on, we know that businesses are still struggling but recognise the need to implement these changes.

“Our clients see that fairly compensating employees is no longer just the morally right thing to do, but the law.” 

The new data is part of the ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View worldwide study into the future of work.


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