PC Case Gear Admits To Underpaying And Overpaying Casual Workers

pc case gear underpaying overpaying workersImage: PC Case Gear

One of Australia's biggest PC and peripheral retailers, PC Case Gear, is in the process of sorting out backpayments to employees current and past following an audit of its payroll.

The mispayments - a mix of underpayments and overpayments to casuals - was confirmed to PC Case Gear staff in an internal email, which was obtained by CRN Australia. The email noted that the errors came from complications around Australia's "modern" industrial awards system, with the company's payroll already having been outsourced to a third party.

"To fix this as quickly as possible, PCCG and its external accountants have conducted a review and identified the back pay due to PCCG’s former casual employees," CRN reported.

Following the news, some former PCCG staff posted on social media about their experiences receiving backpay. One noted that they were backpaid for work they did in 2017, while another mentioned that received backpay in 2019 for casual work they did between September and December 2018.



There's no public confirmation on the exact amount of overpayments or underpayments, but it's positive at least that the retailer was open about the issue with their staff. It shouldn't have any impact for customers going to PC Case Gear, and is infinitely far lower on the scale of public transgressions than, say, refusing to honour warranties or refunds.

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PC Case Gear is one of the three largest online PC retailers in Australia, according to Alexa data. The site is ranked 187th, putting it just behind Whirlpool in terms of traffic and engagement over the past 90 days.


    Actually sounds like a good news story. If their payroll is outsourced they may have never really known about an issue. To find it, then resolve it quickly and completely with current and former employees is really all thhat can be asked of them.

    reads more like the 3rd party accountants just sucked at their job. mind you I've never worked in a company that has outsourced payroll so I wouldn't know what checks are usually in place.

    I don't see any reason to stop buying from them if they are upfront about fixing the issue

      3rd party payroll isnt actually as rare as you think...even big global companies do it by hiring accounting firms sometimes its cheaper and more efficient to get a dedicated accounting firm to do it instead of mucking about yourself and messing it up from lack of experience.

        interesting although I can't fault the logic considering my current company's payroll system seems to have weekly issue that requires the payroll department to call support

        granted that just might be the crappy software we use lol

    What's the bet that underpayments outnumber "overpayments" 10:1?

      Very high, and the reason is pretty simple. There are 122 Awards to sift through to find the right one, and levels within those Awards as well. Those levels represent the duties you're expected to do, and its easy for someones job to evolve to the point they fall into a higher level without realising.

      Under the General Retail Industry Award for example. it looks trivial to slip from level 1 to level 3, which is about $30 a week more - you only need to be expected to handle a store alone. Awards arent something a business looks at regularly so its very very easy to miss when someone advances to a higher tier especially when its only expected but doesnt generally happen. And its usually only addressed if a staff member knows about the awards and realises the mistake.

      Staff duties rarely lessen so you wont find examples of people dropping to lower levels very often. End result is that more staff get underpaid than overpaid when these things happen.

        All of which is fine, but it exposes a not insignificant amount of cynicism, specifically:

        1) PCCG is presumably paying the award and nothing more,

        2) it felt the need to make a false equivalence by claiming both overpayments and underpayments as if there was some overall balance where, on average, the company didn't benefit financially from underpaying its employees (because some were also 'overpaid').

        But in any case, the crux of your argument relates to higher duties, however that's not the kind of thing that would easily be identified in a third party audit since it requires one to interrogate the actual duties of staff while they actually working.

        Much more likely the errors relate to things such as overtime and leave entitlements, which are errors very easy to identify by simply re-running the correct calculations through the data they already have in their payroll system.

          Crux of my argument was that there are multiple rates to consider under every award, and that its easy to get it wrong. Not disputing you, just adding to what you said. Most will be underpayments, not overpayments because when errors happen its usually because staff arent upgraded to the payrate they should be. That could be because of their age, qualifications, duty creep, changes to Awards, or various other reasons.

          I dont think it is overtime or leave entitlements here, as this seems to have been with casuals, who dont get them. They get paid a loading to compensate, which could also be a reason as thats changed over the years. Its also not clear how long they've used a third party payroll service either.

          As for the equivalence of overpayments and underpayments, thats pretty common for press releases like this. Include ANY positivity to try and get some positive reaction from the public. But the general crux here is that the awards are bloody complicated, and mistakes can be missed for years. When they do get found, the length of time makes them big issues, but its really just a small issue thats compounded over time.

          This has happened over 7 years with PCGG. George Calombaris happened over 6, remember his public opinion roasting last year? It was nearly identical to this one where it ended up he was underpaying about 500 staff just $1/hour. I have no doubt plenty of other businesses have and are making the same mistakes. There have been a lot of changes since most of the awards were introduced a decade ago, many of which businesses could easily miss.

            I keep seeing this argument about the "complexity" of "122 awards", which is just an easy throw away dismissal.

            And George Calombaris' situation, just like most similar hospitality industry stories, related to either deliberate underpayment (such as 7-11) or unpaid overtime (pretty much everyone). None of which has anything to with the complexity of industrial awards.

            I have been involved in various levels of industrial relations, both as union rep and management rep for decades, and I have literally never seen a workplace with more than half a dozen awards. Perhaps hospitality has, I can't say, but a simple warehouse/online retail operation most certain does not.

            Every single one of these "complex" awards is actually pretty bloody simple in practice. Wage rates are one single page. Entitlements are perhaps 5-6 pages. There's an easy index at the front to find stuff, it's not rocket science. The vast majority of the text in any award relates to edge-cases that rarely come up, such as maternity leave, long service leave, redundancy, unfair dismissal and similar.

            I am sure it happens, but I personally have never seen someone successfully reclassified simply because they occasionally do a bit of work at a higher band, even in highly unionised workplaces. Annual increments, on the other hand, are just standard stuff that any Excel spreadsheet could process automatically with no human intervention at all.

            Furthermore, any organisation the size of PCCG employs a HR person whose full time job is to understand this stuff, plus a variety of support staff. Most HR managers nowadays are university educated in HR, if not also with years if not decades of experience.

            Additionally, every sensible workplace has an enterprise bargaining agreement that picks up all the complexities of this and pulls them together in a nice concise place. If PCCG doesn't and it's just relying on a hodgepodge of maybe awards it's really scraping the bottom of the barrel on wages and it's no surprise at all that this caught up with them.

              I dont want to write another lengthy post but in short my experience is different. When I saw mistakes like this, it was always something that had happened for years, generally out of ignorance. They didnt know the rules had changed, so didnt inform their payroll services. Occasionally, they didnt know what to do so just left it and hoped it would go away. That was one of the reasons one project we did went from being a novel project to the bulk of our work.

              If your experience is different, so be it. But working from the ATO side of things, with well over 20 years in the Small Business sector, I saw different. With PCCG, we dont know where the issue is so we're both just speculating. You may be right, I may be right, we may both be right, and we may both be wrong. My experience says one thing, yours another.

              At the start of this back and forth, I was responding to your question about over-payments v underpayments, and giving one reason it could happen. A human error made through misreading an award in 2013 could be one reason. Its not the only way it could happen, and I'm not saying it is.

              But my experience as an analyst and auditor says theres every chance it was human error because someone misinterpreted an award at a time when things changed quickly. And it happened often enough that I saw the system as flawed.

                Which is all fine, but doesn't explain why you have spent so much time arguing about "complexity". 122 is the total number of awards in existence across all industries FFS, including trades, healthcare, white colar professions, public service, farming and mining, etc. There really is no mystery about which applies to which jobs.

                If your argument is simply that the most likely explanation for underpayments in this case is that someone stuffed up then we are in agreement. It doesn't have anything to do with the complexity of the industrial relations system though.

                  I mentioned 122 awards once. Then narrowed it down to the General Retail Industry Award, as that seems to be the award that PCCG would be using. Then gave an example. Under that award there are different rates based on age, experience, duties, employment status, and I think a couple of others I'm forgetting. Which allows mistakes to happen. Thats not even starting on any possible allowances, which I cant see as applicable here.

                  I actually think the system is good, its just that when things go wrong they dont get detected for far too long. So a little issue becomes a big problem.

                  But you seem to have been in IR for a while, do you remember what changes happened back in 2014/15? That would have been the first budget after the Lib's got back in, and I remember there being a lot, I just cant remember what they were.

                  Labor consolidated the awards into the existing list (more or less) in 2010, but its the changes after 2013 that seem to have caused most of these long standing problems. Both PCCG and Calombaris's problems date back to 2013. Co-incidentally or not, the same year our Govt changed and hence IR policy.

                  Most I saw in the ATO came from a similar timeframe.

                  @grunt as you say, awards were consolidated in 2009 (to 122, down from 1500+) and limited to only a small number of allowable conditions. From 2013 or so there was a further "modernisation" process.

                  Both more or less implimented Coalition talking points about reducing "complexity" in the industrial relations system, but are really just part of an endless process to eliminate employment conditions entirely, as evidenced by the fact that after two successive rounds of simplification we are still hearing the exact same arguments about so-called "complexity" of Australia's industrial relations system that the Coalition, business groups and the conservative media have been talking about for decades.

                  Yeah I saw too many times that "simplifying" things generally did anything but that. GST for example really did simplify things, but there are more errors now that what there were before GST. I had experience with several of the taxes/levies that GST replaced, and was part of the first wave that worked in the GST area. No idea why people get it so wrong now though, its not a hard system. On the other side of things though, I'm sure people could give me plenty of reasons.

                  I think thats why we're butting heads on this - your experience suggests its easier than it might be in practice, and I was seeing people that were making the mistakes they shouldnt. Having said that, the ones I saw were typically getting other things wrong as well, which may skew my view as they werent the greatest administrators in general.

                  So we're probably seeing it from two ends of the situation. Your experience is they shouldnt be getting it wrong, while mine was that they were anyway.

      The overpayments is interesting... it's sign of bad accounting.

      I didn't here 7/11, Woolies or Qantas overpaying anyone. Other recent underpayment scandals in major corporations, franchises and hospility have been fraud, management and human resource failures to apply award rates and time management legally.

      It's a reminder always audit your payroll.

    I never bought from them anyway, but definitely not going to now.

      I mean if the cases they make arent your thing then sure..

      But if you're not buying because of the article why? It looks like the problem was the 3rd party company doing the payroll messed up and they found out about it and are actively trying to fix it now instead of the usual cover up till u get sued procedure..

        Some people enjoy being angry.

          Whether it's the fault of a thrid party or not, PCCG is still responsible for making sure their employees are appropriately remunerated.You can put all the caveats around it you like but wage theft is wage theft.

          If anything this is a great example of PCCG's ability to effectively crisis management and drive a positive narrative.

        Wherever possible, I avoid buying from businesses that exploit their workers in this manner. It's generally not a hard thing to do in a competitive industry like PC parts retail.

        More generally I've just never found a need to buy from PC Case Gear, as I have other suppliers that have always worked well for me.

          To be perfectly fair Im not gonna act as if pcgg is some saint of a company and most likely does the same hire casuals for minimal wage stuff mcdonalds and the like do...

          Thats just business practice.. that being said this article is less of an expose on them actually exploiting their employees but more like them finding out the company they hired to do payroll screwed up and are taking steps to fix it. As folks have mentioned pay mistakes happen and all it takes is an audit a few years later to find out it has snowballed.

          But hey if you have better pc suppliers more power to you! :D Im in the process of canvasing parts for an upgrade myself!

      Why not you goddamn moron? Holy hell people are stupid.

    There's nothing bad here, seriously, neither I nor my husband have ever worked somewhere this hasn't happened. It's nothing, and of course it'll still be my go-to store for PC parts.

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