In an exclusive interview with Adam Bowles, Country Director for Australia at Advanced, we delved into the complexities and solutions surrounding employee compensation and wage theft in Australian businesses. This pressing issue, often overshadowed by other business challenges, has profound implications for both the financial health and ethical standing of companies across the nation.
Bowles, with his extensive experience in the industry, highlighted the intricate nature of Australia's industrial relations. "You've got complex industrial relation instruments and rules, probably more complex than many other countries," he stated. This complexity is a significant hurdle for businesses, especially those still relying on manual processes, which are prone to errors.
Tackling wage theft complexity
A recent PwC study shed light on the magnitude of this problem, estimating that underpayments in Australia in 2020 amounted to approximately AUD $1.35 billion. Bowles emphasised, "Complexity is no excuse for not getting it right."
The repercussions of wage theft extend beyond financial losses. Bowles pointed out the severe impact on a company’s reputation and the inherent costs of attracting and retaining staff. "Reputational damage has a hidden impact," he explained, underscoring the importance of maintaining a positive perception among employees.
One of the critical challenges businesses face is rectifying historical underpayments, especially concerning former employees. Bowles elaborated, "Identifying the underpayment is one thing, then rectifying that, often going back several years, is another." He also noted the complexities that arise when companies acquire others, potentially inheriting historical wage underpayment issues.
Technological solutions and compliance
Technology, particularly automatic time tracking and shift scheduling, plays a crucial role in preventing wage theft. Bowles advocated for the use of Advanced software in managing time and attendance, especially for businesses operating at scale. "You need technology to help you with that," he stressed, highlighting the difficulty of manually interpreting complex employee awards with various rules.
Bowles also touched on the importance of integrating core HR solutions with time and attendance systems to minimise errors. "If you can integrate and automate the transfer of data across all of these activities, your potential for errors is going to be vastly reduced," he advised.
The conversation then shifted to the ethical, legal, and financial responsibilities of businesses in preventing wage theft. Bowles stressed the importance of ethical and legal compliance, especially in light of recent legal changes making it a criminal offence to knowingly underpay staff. "From an ethical perspective, you should want to pay your staff correctly," he stated, adding that the financial implications of non-compliance are significant.
When asked about advice for businesses grappling with these issues, Bowles highlighted the accessibility and affordability of modern software solutions. "Nowadays, you can subscribe to software solutions to help with both your time and attendance, payroll, and you can be up and running almost instantly," he pointed out, emphasising the reduced investment and implementation time compared to the past.
As companies navigate the complexities of industrial relations, technology emerges as a vital ally in ensuring fair compensation and maintaining ethical and legal compliance. Bowles underscores the need for businesses to stay vigilant and proactive in addressing the challenges of wage theft, leveraging the power of modern software solutions to safeguard their most valuable asset – their employees.