Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

How ‘dodgy’ bosses are ripping you off

AUSTRALIAN bosses are "ripping off" their own employees, underpaying them by billions of dollars a year, Labor says.

At its National Conference in Adelaide today, the party revealed a new plan to "make sure dodgy bosses are appropriately punished" by cracking down on employers who fail to pay their workers superannuation.

"Bosses who rip off their staff, who don't pay their super, who steal their super, should receive the same punishments and penalties as those who violate other workplace rights," Bill Shorten said in his keynote speech.

"The retirement savings of Australian workers are a workplace right. They deserve the same strong protections as any other workplace right."

To that end, should Labor win government, it will include a right to superannuation in the National Employment Standards.


In practice, that change should empower workers to pursue their unpaid super through the Fair Work Commission or the Federal Court.

At the moment that money is owed to the Australian Taxation Office, and even when workers realise they've been underpaid, they often struggle to get compensation. Unless there happens to be a clause in their award or contract, the cash is not technically owed to them.

"Individuals have not had the ability to make a claim to get their own unpaid super back, and that is wrong," Shadow Financial Services Minister Clare O'Neil said at a press conference, describing it as a "scourge" on Australian workers.

"Labor will not tolerate the non-payment of superannuation. Superannuation is a workplace right and it should be treated as such under the law," Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen added.

"Employers who aren't paying superannuation are ripping off their workers and they are also getting an unfair advantage over those employers doing the right thing."

The opposition has pointed to data from Industry Super Australia, which found nearly three million Australians were underpaid super in the 2015-16 financial year. The shortfall totalled $5.9 billion.

Most of the workers affected are under 35, have blue collar jobs or earn under $30,000.

"All of us as members of parliament have interviewed people who have been ripped off, people who have retired, who have only just found out they thought they had thousands of dollars in super and they find there is nothing," Mr Bowen said.

"It's been estimated at $50 billion in unpaid super. That has to stop."

Labor's policy will also beef up the penalties employers face for misconduct. In more severe cases, the resulting fines could be up to 300 per cent of the unpaid amount.

"Often these are just businesses operating not paying superannuation," Mr Bowen said.

"Unfortunately, some employers think when times get tough, the first thing you can skimp on is superannuation. It's the law of the land, people's right, an entitlement for everyone.

"While the tax office does a good job in many instances, it should be open to employees and former employees to pursue this through the courts, not relying on the tax office only."

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