Retail

Jewellery retailer Michael Hill stole up to $25 million from workers

Matthew Elmas /

Jewellery retailer Michael Hill faces a Fair Work Ombudsman probe after admitting to stealing millions in wages from workers over the last six financial years.

The ASX-listed company admitted to the wage theft in a note to investors on Thursday, saying it would be undertaking a “full remediation program” following a “detailed review” of records.

Michael Hill is just the latest big business to come clean for worker underpayment, following in the footsteps of Domino’s Pizza, 7-Eleven, LUSH cosmetics and Rebel owner Super Retail Group.

A myriad of small businesses ripping off workers also continues to come to light, amid FWO efforts to address systemic worker exploitation.

Michael Hill now faces the possibility of hefty fines, up to $63,000 per contravention, if the matter makes its way to the courts.

The retailer did not say how many workers it ripped off, but did reveal the underpayments are estimated to be between $10 million and $25 million.

“When we identified there was an issue I mobilised a team, supported by independent external experts, to determine the scale of the problem,” chief executive Daniel Bracken said in a statement.

“We will move as quickly as possible to rectify any underpayments.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman wasn’t notified of the wage theft before Michael Hill made its announcement yesterday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the ombudsman didn’t characterise its enquiries as an investigation.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman is concerned by the scale of the reported underpayments and will contact Michael Hill International Ltd,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Michael Hill, which operates 307 stores, has struggled financially in recent years, having abandoned its American operation and begun winding down its Emma & Roe brand last year.

Its most recent trading period was also lacklustre, with same-store sales down 1.5% for the quarter to March 31.

Bracken, who stepped into the top job at the retailer last November, said the underpayments stemmed from a “misapplication of the Award across selected sample groups of team members”.

NOW READ: “Deliberate and conscious”: Business fined $144,000 after misleading ombudsman over underpayment

NOW READ: ‘Unsustainable’ $5 pizzas: Fair Work boss Sandra Parker chases higher penalties for dodgy retailers

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].

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