Spending a Penny at Work

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Aussies are putting a new spin on the old British expression “spend a penny” after it was revealed that a former award-winning employer has been financially penalising its staff for taking comfort breaks.

Aegis Australia, which won a best-employer award in 2011, deducted the pay of a number of its employees at its Werribee call centre for using the toilet.

The centre’s strict electronic system triggers alerts when staff members are away from their desks for longer than 90 seconds, requiring them to explain their absence.

Aegis call centre employees have scheduled start, break, lunch and finish times, which are managed through an electronic time and attendance system.

Andrew Hume, CEO Aegis Australia

Employees were able to make up the time at the end of their shift, but at least three were docked wages for answering the call of nature.

Bowing to publicity pressure, the company’s chief executive, Andrew Hume, said that the automated process had made incorrect deductions and that the employees affected would be reimbursed.

“If an employee is absent from their rostered schedule, they are sent an electronic alert updating them to the amendment and prompting for exceptions to be made,” he explained.

“After detailed review, three instances were identified where the process had failed and time deductions were made that were incorrect against standard operating procedures.”

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