How Qld workers have been ripped off fir $1 billion a year

About $5 billion in employer contributions has been lost from Australian superannuation funds, according to a report by Industry Super Australia.

Jan 10, 2022, updated Jan 11, 2022
Younger employees working in construction, transport, trades, hospitality and accommodation that were likely to be underpaid their super. (Image:Dan Burton/Unsplash)

Younger employees working in construction, transport, trades, hospitality and accommodation that were likely to be underpaid their super. (Image:Dan Burton/Unsplash)

In Queensland, the losses in 2018-19 were just under $1 billion and the report found that it was younger employees working in construction, transport, trades, hospitality and accommodation that were likely to be underpaid their super.

Its analysis of tax data shows more than 570,000 Queensland workers were not paid $940 million in super, losing an average of $1600 in 2018-19.  It showed that labourers, machinery operators and drivers, technicians and trades workers and sales workers were most likely to not be paid super.

The probability of not getting their full super payment for workers earning between $25,000 and $49,000 was 31.2 per cent. ISA said those who earned less had less bargaining power – and were also less likely to notice if their super has not been paid.

The largest proportion of notifications about unpaid super for 2019-2020 came from workers in accommodation and food services.

The unpaid super could mean a worker would retire with $60,000 less than what they should have earned, ISA said.

“In six years, Queensland’s cumulative unpaid super debt has climbed to an eyewatering $5.5 billion,” ISA said.

It claimed lax enforcement and loose laws that allowed super to be paid quarterly into the workers’ fund have been “exploited by some dodgy Queensland bosses to rip workers off”.

The report’s key recommendation for fixing the unpaid super scourge in Queensland was to mandate all employers pay super into a workers’ account when wages were paid.

“Not paying super with wages makes it difficult for workers to keep track of their money and allows payments to fall through the crack,” ISA said.

“Federal politicians have known about this solution for years but have failed to act.

“Unpaid super creates an unequal playing field, as the employers doing the right thing are undercut by competitors who are ripping their workers off.

“Workers must largely rely on the Australian Tax Office to recover their money as it is difficult to sue for super, but it only recovers a dismal 12 per cent of underpayments annually and rarely punishes dodgy bosses.

“If the ATO is unwilling or unable to recover Queensland workers’ savings the law should be changed so that employees, the Fair Work Ombudsman, and others acting on behalf of workers can.

“To fix Queensland’s $1 billion unpaid super scourge politicians should commit to: mandating super payment at the same time as wages; lift enforcement activity and force the ATO to issue and publicise penalties for not paying super;  and empower employees and representatives to recover unpaid super debts.”

ISA said the Government should also extend the Fair Entitlement Guarantee so workers can recoup their savings if a company goes bust – at the moment super is not included.

Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said by not mandating the payment of super with wages, politicians were stopping millions getting what they are owed.

“Most employers are doing the right thing, but they are being undercut by competitors who are getting away with daylight robbery,” he said.

“Paying super with wages is the only way to get workers their money and level the playing field for business.”

Employer group the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said superannuation requirements can be a “challenging space to navigate, especially when businesses are facing competing priorities like managing Covid in the workplace and skills shortages’’.

CCIQ senior industrial relations specialist Michael O’Brien said the superannuation landscape can be confusing for small businesses and there was significant complexity around changes to award entitlements and how the JobKeeper payment impacted their obligations.

“There have also been some recent changes to super rules including stapling legislation which is why it’s important for businesses to ensure they are compliant,’’ he said.

 “Businesses should seek independent advice, for example via Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, to ensure they meet superannuation requirements, avoid costly and damaging oversights, meet their obligations to their workforce and get back to running their business day-to-day.’’



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