Woolworths Apologises For Underpaying Staff By Up To $300M

Woolworths has revealed it underpaid more than 5,700 salaried workers as much as $300 million dating back nine years.

The supermarket giant has "unreservedly apologised" to affected staff and confirmed that it was committed to rectifying the payment shortfalls as soon as possible.

"As a business we pride ourselves on putting our team first, and in this case we have let them down," Group chief executive Brad Banducci said in a statement.

"The highest priority for Woolworths Group right now is to address this issue, and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again".

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has apologised. Image: Paul Miller AAP

The underpayment was flagged by a review launched in February following the implementation of a new enterprise agreement covering all supermarket and Metro stores.

To date, just two years of data has been analysed but Woolies has conceded that the issue may date back to 2010. The error is expected to cost the company between $200 million and $300 million before tax.

Interim back payments from the period assessed so far -- September 2017 to August 2019 -- will hit salaried workers' bank accounts by Christmas.

Woolworths said it had a plan in place to ensure team members' pay was correct in future and that a review will now be carried out across all of the company's Australian businesses, including Big W and Dan Murphys.

Image: AAP

The Fair Work Ombudsman has slammed Woolworths for breaching Australia's workplace laws.

“Lately, we are seeing a disturbing number of large corporates publicly admitting that they have underpaid their staff," Sandra Parker said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It is particularly concerning that many of these corporates have enterprise agreements in place that they negotiated but then failed to properly uphold the minimum standards.

"It is not surprising that workers lose trust in their company when this happens," she said, adding that corporate Australia was 'on notice'.

A full investigation is now underway.

Ooshies were so popular among kids that some classrooms banned them. Photo: Woolworths

The announcement comes following the release of Woolies first-quarter sales growth which was driven by the success of its Lion King Ooshies and Discovery Garden checkout giveaways, and comfortably beat that announced by rival Coles on Tuesday.

Comparable sales at Woolworths' supermarkets rose 6.6 percent on the same period a year ago, comparing to 0.1 per cent from Coles.