NAB underpayments saga hits a roadblock


National Australia Bank. Source: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

NAB’s attempts to repay thousands of current and former staff owed money due to an underpayments issue has hit a roadblock. 

The bank’s repayment portal only accepts Australian bank, tax and superannuation details, effectively locking past staff now living overseas out of the payment rectification process.

The development comes as underpayment scandals continue to haunt a growing number of Australian companies, from financial services providers to those in the hospitality industry. At the top end of town, companies that have confessed to underpayments to the tune of tens of millions include Wesfarmers, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank and Michael Hill Jewellers.

In a letter sent to past employees in April, NAB stated the underpayment issue relates to remuneration entitlements, allowances and related obligations under Australian employment laws, including superannuation and tax, and is focused on the period from October 1, 2012, onwards. 

“Paying you correctly during your time at NAB was fundamental to getting the basics right, and it is unacceptable that we have not always delivered on that promise. I am sorry, and we are fixing it,” the bank said. 

But NAB’s repayment portal drop-down fields only accept Australian bank and super schemes. This means that fixing the underpayment issue can only be remediated for Australian citizens. 

A past employee now living overseas raised the alarm with NAB back in June this year, but is still waiting for her underpayment.

The Payroll Governance Team told her in an email seen by SmartCompany: “Unfortunately, our system can only accept Australian bank, tax and superannuation details. You will need to provide these details and then look to transfer the funds from your Australian superfund to your (overseas) fund.” 

The employee, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told NAB that upon leaving Australia, she transferred her super scheme to her country of residence and closed her Australian account so she is only paying tax in one country. 

It is not known how others who may also now be living overseas might be affected by the issue.

In a statement, NAB told SmartCompany it is aware that its system can only process remediation payments to Australian bank and superannuation accounts at this time.

“We are currently investigating an appropriate solution for us to pay international accounts.”

NAB employed law firm King & Wood Mallesons and audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a review into problems with the bank’s payroll system. The issue was discovered during a payroll review that investigated 148 matters.

So far, the bank has compensated former and current employees around $55 million, but has identified a further 3,200 current and former staff who had been underpaid. 


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