7-Eleven has appointed a specialist investigator and established a whistleblower hotline as the convenience chain continues its investigations into claims of staff underpayments by franchisees.
7-Eleven said the investigator, who has a law enforcement background looking into criminal and fraudulent activity, is tasked with undertaking inquiries into any suspected serious breaches of workplace obligations.
The chain is currently the subject of a national inquiry by the Fair Work Ombudsman into allegations of systemic underpayments and false record-keeping practices, with a final report expected in the first quarter of this year. Wage fraud at 7-Eleven was first uncovered by a joint investigation by Four Corners and Fairfax Media last year.
7-Eleven interim CEO, Bob Baily said: “The appointment of the investigator adds an additional layer to 7-Eleven’s compliance protocols, which include store audits, enhanced payroll, timesheet and rostering procedures as well as refreshed training and education for franchisees and their employees.
“7-Eleven does not condone the failure to meet workplace obligations including the underpayment of employees by Franchisees and these measures demonstrate our ongoing commitment to stamping out such practices,” Baily said.
Additionally, 7-Eleven has established a special whistleblower hotline so complaints or claims can be made “without any fear of retribution”.
“7-Eleven will also not tolerate any action by a franchisee that may intimidate employees or actively attempt to minimise legitimate claims,” the company said.
7-Eleven chairman Michael Smith said the company was making significant progress toward satisfactory remediation and prevention, but recognises there is more work to be done.
“As chairman I am sorry for the circumstances and the fact of franchisee employee underpayments and I am sorry that those workers have been subjected to it.
“What has occurred is unacceptable and abhorrent and we are building capability internally and utilising external expertise to rectify the impacts of what has occurred and prevent them from happening again,” Smith said.
The announcements follow the move by the chain last month to take over two stores and terminate the franchise agreements for both stores after the franchisee was found to have been underpaying staff during independent investigations.
Speaking to C&I Week, Smith said: “Any time you terminate a franchise is a real disappointment. It means that someone who has been with us has lost a business. They wanted to be in business with us and our view is that we wanted to be in business with them so when it comes to an end it’s a pretty significant event. But the other point of that is, when there is a breach of an agreement, if we don’t take strong action then we’re not demonstrating our commitment to all of the franchisees and the moral commitment that we have to our community.”