Amnesty Bill a missed chance to fix the $6 billion unpaid super scourge
Monday 24 February 2020
The Federal Government’s Super Amnesty Bill does little to fix the $6 billion unpaid super scandal or give workers the legal right to pursue dodgy bosses that have ripped them off.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Recovering Unpaid Superannuation) Bill 2019 –known as the Super Amnesty Bill – importantly reunites some workers with their lost superannuation, but gives bosses a free pass.
Crucially the 27-year amnesty – which will soon be law after passing the Senate – recovers about $200 million for members – which is a good thing. But that is less than five per cent of the annual unpaid super bill, and the Bill does little to prevent future underpayments.
An outdated law only requires super to be paid quarterly and not in line with pay cycles, meaning it is easy for payments to fall through the cracks. Mandating super payment on payday would make it much harder for dodgy bosses to rip off workers.
But instead of making this important reform Canberra’s politicians blinked, meaning 2.85 million Australian workers a year will continue to be ripped off.
The government has committed, in writing, to reporting on how it would implement including super in the National Employment Standards within six months. This important reform, which should have been included in this Bill, allows workers and their representatives the legal right to pursue stolen super.
As it stands workers must convince the Australian Tax Office to reclaim its unpaid super on their behalf, and its enforcement regime has been sadly lacking.
Everyday, the government delays on those important reforms is another that one in three Australian workers are ripped off – with the average worker losing about $2000 a year.
The ATO has only once issued a maximum penalty for unpaid super and has only recovered a fraction of members’ money – meaning an effective amnesty for dodgy bosses already exists.
There is also an optical issue about giving bosses who have not paid super an official free pass.
Not only are workers impacted but employers who do the right thing and pay their legal entitlements are able to be undercut by their unscrupulous competitors.
ISA welcomes the inclusion of minimum penalties for underpayments.