In November I ceased employment with a state government agency in a role which was covered by an EBA. My former employer agency has a complicated and opaque “process” relating to performance pay. The process is that at the start of the financial year each employee agrees and documents a performance plan with their supervisor and the performance against the plan is then assessed at mid-year and the end of the financial year. If the supervisor and then the organisation deem that the employee has met or exceeded their objectives at the end of the financial year then they are deemed to be eligible for “progression” to the next pay increment.

The process is subject to weird budget constraints which effectively mean that only about the top 75% of employees deemed “eligible” receive their progression pay increment, which is then backdated to 1 July. The assessment process takes an inordinate time to complete, and this year was the slowest on record with formal employee notifications for the previous year not occurring until December. I know from my review meeting and conversations with my supervisor that I was deemed eligible for progression pay. I received written confirmation from HR that “don’t worry, if eligible for progression back pay, you will receive this after you have left the agency”. I left the agency on good terms with all of my superiors and colleagues.

I know from former colleagues that the backdated progression payment (i.e. backdated to 1 July) was made to eligible employees this week. Guess what? Nothing showed up in my bank account. I have queried this with HR and my supervisor but received no response. I think they are closing ranks and have determined not to pay my backdated progression simply because I have left the agency. The back pay sum involved is not insignificant: about 5/12ths of $3,300, plus employer super contributions.

There is nothing specific in the EBA or, as far as I am aware, approved agency policies, dealing with this issue. I suspect that someone in HR has just made up a position that once an employee leaves they do not receive backdated progression pay (apologies, but in my experience HR people do this often!).

I am considering an FOI request seeking all relevant documents, which is likely cause my former agency considerable discomfort. I think it would be unconscionable and, I suspect, without any lawful basis, for an employer to withhold back pay assessed on the previous year’s performance plan simply because i) the assessment process took an inordinately long time and ii) the employee has left the organisation in the meantime.

Thoughts please?!