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Employee overpayment is more common than wage theft

An audit of Australian businesses has found that workers are overpaid more often than they are underpaid.

The Australian Payroll Association assessed 39 businesses and found almost 70 per cent had overpaid their workers in the last 18 months.

In most instances, overpaid employees weren’t asked to pay the money back.

Tracy Angwin, CEO of the Australian Payroll Association said she isn’t surprised by the finding.

“What we found is that the reasons that overpayments happen are actually the same reason that underpayments happen, which is just miscalculating awards and entitlements,” she told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

“That can just as easily be made in the benefit of the employee as the employer.

“But they are mistakes and they do need to be held accountable for them, for sure.”

Ms Angwin said most cases of wage theft are unintentional.

“Although there have definitely been underpayments with a lot of large Australian employers, certainly the ones we’ve worked with, have all been really shocked and horrified at that outcome, and certainly it was not a deliberate action,” she said.

“What happens is the award calculations are set up in a system and that might happen 10 years ago, and those set ups have never been changed but legislation has been changed.

“In the vast majority of cases I don’t like the term wage theft because it’s actually not the intent of the employer.”

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Image: krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty