5 step payslip health check: How to work out if you're being paid correctly (and where to find help)

Recent months have seen numerous revelations of Australian employers underpaying their workers. One action you could take today to protect your wages is to do a simple payslip health check – here’s how in five simple steps.
How to read your payslip - Canstar - 2020
Is it time to check you’re being paid correctly? Image source: fizkes (Shutterstock).

So far this year, retailers including Coles, Wesfarmers and Super Retail Group have admitted to wage underpayments in the millions of dollars – and we’re only in February.

Last year wasn’t much better. Pay scandals frequently littered the news cycle, from Woolworths declaring $300 million in underpayments to George Calombaris short-changing workers to the tune of $7.8 million across his MAdE restaurant empire, which subsequently collapsed under the weight of public outrage.

These aren’t the only examples of Australian workers missing out on their correct wages, penalty rates, overtime, sick leave, annual leave and superannuation. In fact, it’s estimated that 13% of Australian workers are underpaid a total of $1.35 billion each year, according to analysis by professional services firm PwC.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2018-19 annual report revealed it had recovered $40 million in underpaid wages for 18,000 shortchanged employees – the highest figure in the regulator’s history and a “significant increase” on the previous year.

This may have you questioning if your employer has paid you fairly. So, there’s no better time than now to check if your pay is correct.

1. What should be on my payslip?

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), some of the main things that should be on your payslip include:

  • Your name
  • Your employer’s name
  • Your employer’s Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • The dates of the pay period
  • The date of payment
  • Your gross and net pay
  • If you’re paid hourly: your ordinary hourly pay rate, number of hours worked at that rate and the total dollar amount of pay at that rate
  • Any loadings (including casual loading), allowances, bonuses, penalty rates, incentive-based payments or other paid entitlements
  • The pay rate that applied on the last day of employment
  • Any deductions from your pay, including the amount and details of each deduction, as well as the details of the fund or account the deduction was paid into
  • Superannuation contributions paid for your benefit, including the amount made during the pay period or the amount that needs to be made and the details of the super fund the contributions were made to or will be made to

What does a payslip look like?

The FWO provides this example payslip, which it suggests employees could use to compare against their payslip:

Payslip example from Fair Work Ombudsman
Source: Fair Work Ombudsman.

2. Where can I find out how much I should be paid?

Okay, so now you know how to read your payslip, but how do you know if you’re actually on the right pay rate? A great place to start could be to check your base pay rate, allowances and penalty rates – including rates for overtime hours – with the FWO’s pay calculator.

The calculator can help you find what industry award you should be paid under and will ask you a number of questions about your employment, such as if you’re a full-time, part-time or casual worker.

Employees have the right to be paid the correct rate for all time worked, even for training, trial shifts or team meetings, according to the Ombudsman.

3. What if my payslip is wrong (or I don’t get one at all)?

It’s against the law for employers to give you false or misleading payslips, or to not give you one at all, the FWO states. In fact, the employer could even be taken to court to prove they didn’t underpay an employee and could face up to a $63,000 penalty if found guilty.

Before it gets anywhere near that stage, it could be worth speaking to your employer or using the FWO’s tool to write a letter to send it, requesting your full employment records. That way, you can check its records of payment against your own, and find any discrepancies.

The FWO encourages employees and employers to sort issues out themselves in the workplace where possible, and offers a range of resources that could help.

The Ombudsman recommends employees talk to their employer about their concerns. If the employer needs to pay back unpaid wages, the FWO states that they have to do so as soon as possible, as either part of a normal pay cycle or a special payment.

If you run into any complications with this process or can’t come to an agreement with your employer about how you should be paid, you could contact the FWO on 13 13 94 to lodge a complaint. Check you’ve got all the information you need, though, before calling.

Joining your relevant worker’s union might also be helpful when trying to seek fair pay and resolve workplace issues.

4. Don’t forget about your super – check your payslip and your super account

A key point to check on your payslip is whether or not your correct superannuation entitlements are being paid.

You are entitled to be paid the 9.5% super guarantee on top of your gross income, which employers must pay at least quarterly, if you are:

  • Paid $450 or more before tax in a month; and either
  • over 18 years old; or
  • under 18 years old and working over 30 hours per week

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has a handy tool to check if you are eligible to receive super from your employer.

Keep in mind that even if your payslip is showing super being paid, that doesn’t necessarily mean the correct amount of money is being transferred into your super account. The ATO recommends employees log in to their MyGov account and access their super records – via the ATO link in the portal – to check individual deposits.

Employees can also check their statements issued by their super fund. Most funds allow members to access their accounts online, or send paper statements. You can also usually call your fund and ask it to send a statement to you.

The ATO warns there are harsh penalties for employers who do not pay staff their correct super entitlements or offer a choice of super fund. If your employer fails to pay you the super guarantee at the correct amount and into the correct super fund, they may have to pay the ATO a super guarantee charge.

The Morrison Government has, however, recently passed legislation that would allow a one-off amnesty for unpaid super with no penalty, with the idea being that this would incentivise employers to pay any unpaid super in full.

5. Where can I get help if my employer is not paying me correctly?

  • Fair Work Ombudsman: 13 13 94
  • Australian Taxation Office: 13 28 61
  • Legal Aid in your state, or a workplace lawyer

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