Small Business Ombudsman supports Super Guarantee amnesty

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The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman supports the Government’s planned amnesty for employers who haven’t met their Superannuation Guarantee obligations, a decision which the ACTU has described as “shocking”.

The Small Business Ombudsman appeared before a Senate Committee which is inquiring into the Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Superannuation Measures No. 1) Bill 2018.

“Yesterday I outlined my support of the 12 month Superannuation Guarantee Amnesty in this Bill, so the very few small businesses across Australia that are not up-to-date with their superannuation obligations for current and past employees are able to get their affairs in order,” said Ombudsman Kate Carnell on Wednesday.

Ombudsman Carnell asked the Committee that the amnesty applies from the date the legislation is passed, to maximise the time for small businesses to respond and that the amnesty be “prominently and repeatedly promoted”.

“Small businesses will need time to work with their accountant, audit and identify missed payments, and calculate the capacity to pay within their projected cash flow. Allowing preparation time while the legislation is considered will maximise the number of businesses willing, and ready, to take advantage of the amnesty,” said Ms Carnell.

“Small businesses may not have the financial capacity to make catch-up payments in one lump sum and still meet ongoing obligations. If they enter into a payment plan, payments made during the duration of the plan must attract the same conditions.”

“And during the period of the amnesty, regular promotion through all channels available should be carried out to alert and remind small businesses of the opportunity to become compliant without penalties.”

“Moving forward, I would like to see a superannuation system for small business that is less complicated and easier to comply with. This would ensure unpaid superannuation to employees is an issue of the past.”

The ACTU said it was “shocking” that the Small Business Ombudsman would support was it called the “Turnbull Government’s 26 year superannuation theft amnesty”.

“Rather than seeking to root out illegality in the sector that it is charged to regulate, the Office of the Small Business Ombudsman has instead chosen to support an amnesty which would allow any employer who has ever stolen super from an employee to walk away,” said the ACTU.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly said the choice was clear, either make employers accountable or allow disregard for the rights of working people.

“It is deeply regrettable that an office like the Small Business Ombudsman, which should be leading the charge on ending theft of superannuation and wages, is instead trying to protect the employers who have done the wrong thing,” he said.

“We need to change the rules so that employers who don’t pay their workers are held to account, not let off with one of the biggest amnesties Australia has ever seen.”

“If you can’t pay your employees, or you don’t understand your obligations, then you should not be running a business. Employers need to be held to the same standard that every worker in this country is held to.”

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee is due to give its report into the Bill by 18 June 2018.

Update: The Treasury Laws Amendment (2018 Superannuation Measures No. 1), which contains the amnesty, is currently scheduled for debate in the House of Reps on Tuesday 19 June according to the Draft Legislation Programme. The Bill is then scheduled for debate in the Senate on Wednesday.

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