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One of the largest owners of childcare facilities in Australia has revealed it has underpaid as many as 27,000 current and former workers as much as $80 million over six years after an audit.

G8 Education said on Tuesday it had self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman after an audit by external lawyers and advisers found it had been paying under the award.

The company described the underpayment as “potential inadvertent non-compliance with some requirements” of the award covering childcare workers. It apologised to its staff for the errors.

“The issues identified primarily relate to payment for overtime, minimum engagement periods and agreed hours of work and allowances. In many cases, the issues arose due to insufficient documentation of agreed hours.”

G8 said preliminary assessment indicated it had underpaid its workers between $50 million and $80 million since July 1, 2014.