A Labor Government would make it easier for employees to pursue unpaid superannuation without depending on the ATO.
At the Labor National Conference it was announced that Labor would include superannuation in the National Employment Standards. The National Employment Standards are, currently, a set of 10 minimum worker entitlements – including maximum weekly hours and annual leave.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said this would give all employees the power to chase their unpaid super.
“Currently unpaid or underpaid employer superannuation contributions are a debt owed to the Australian Taxation Office, rather than the worker. Unless there is a clause in their award or agreement, workers can’t chase this money – as the money is not technically owed to them,” said a statement by Mr Bowen, following the announcement.
“By placing superannuation within the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act, a Shorten Labor Government will empower all employees to recoup unpaid super from employers through the Fair Work Commission or the Federal Court.”
He also said that Labor would strengthen the ATO compliance regime and increase penalties for employers underpaying, or not paying, superannuation entitlements.
“Employers who underpay superannuation to their staff because of a false or misleading statement will face fines equal to 100 per cent of the unpaid super. Employers who fail to tell the ATO about unpaid superannuation when asked will face fines equal to 300 per cent of the unpaid super,” said Mr Bowen.
“Scott Morrison and [Assistant Treasurer] Stuart Robert’s proposed solution for unpaid super is to grant an amnesty on penalties,” he said. The Government currently has a Bill before Parliament which would give employers an amnesty for historical underpayment of Super Guarantee. Another Bill, which is closer to being passed, includes the option of jail sentences for non-payment.
“Morrison wants dodgy bosses who rip off workers to get off scot-free. Labor will hit them with bigger fines.”
“Morrison and the Liberals are too out of touch and too consumed by chaos to stand up for workers.”
More needs to be done: Industry Super Australia
Industry Super Australia said the measures announced were an important step, but that more needed to be done on the issue.
“The Opposition’s commitment to include super in the National Employment Standards (NES) will make it crystal clear to employers and employees what their respective responsibilities and rights are,” said Bernie Dean, Chief Executive of Industry Super Australia.
“Super is an important employment entitlement that should be afforded the same prominence and protection as other basic conditions like maximum hours, leave and redundancy.”
Though Industry Super Australia is calling for a comprehensive strategy to “stamp out” the $6 billion a year problem of underpaid Super Guarantee, of which Labor’s plans are an “important step”.
“As important as these proposed changes are, more needs to be done to make sure the burden of fixing unpaid super doesn’t fall on the shoulders of employees,” said Mr Dean.
“This starts with modernising outdated rules that allow employers to hang onto their employees super contributions for up to four months after appearing on a payslip before depositing the money into their super accounts.
“The law needs to change to require super contributions to be paid at the same time their salary is paid.”