Unclaimed monies on abandonment of employment

Q&A

Unclaimed monies on abandonment of employment

Employers are sometimes left with resolving final payments to an employee who has abandoned employment and who has some wages, etc, owning.

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Employers are sometimes left with resolving final payments to an employee who has abandoned employment and who has some wages, etc, owning.
 
This issue was canvassed in response to a question to WorkplaceInfo.
 
We have an employee who has been absent from work for over two weeks and has not made any contract with his immediate manager. 
 
We have attempted to make contact with the employee, both by phone and certified mail, to determine a reason for his unexplained absence.
 
The applicable modern award contains an ‘abandonment of employment’ clause to which we feel we have complied, and have determined the employee has abandoned their employment.
 
However, the employee has some outstanding wages and pro rata annual leave owing to them on termination of their employment. 
 
Are we required to forward this money to the employee or can the company retain these monies?
 
Technically, the wages and annual leave due to an employee are not amounts that can be kept by the employer if the employee cannot be located.
 
If the wages remained unclaimed, s559 of the Fair Work Act 2009 permits an employer to pay amounts (eg wages) to the Commonwealth where those amounts were owed to a former employee whom the employer can no longer contact.
 
The Commonwealth holds these amounts in trust for the former employee.
 
The money is recoverable by the former employee and, if unclaimed monies are paid by the employer to the Commonwealth, the employee can obtain their unpaid monies from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
 
Source: Paul Munro, IR Consultant.
 
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