Unions have vowed to name and shame bosses who refuse to apply for the JobKeeper wage subsidy after small businesses complained that many employees were threatening to “stay home and do nothing” once they received the $1500 fortnightly payment.
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive Peter Strong said up to 20 per cent of employers who were eligible to apply for the JobKeeper subsidy were considering not applying because of the attitude of employees.
“These employees are saying ‘It’s my money, you have got to give it to me and you can’t tell me what to do’,” Mr Strong said.
“A lot of employers are saying, ‘I am not going to do it then’, and that’s the right answer. If you are not interested in working, you need to go on the (lesser) JobSeeker (welfare payment).”
Mr Strong said where businesses were effectively closed, employers could want JobKeeper recipients to undertake training or perform duties such as stocktakes or regular clean-ups of commercial premises.
“The government has put $130bn into this, so people should honour what the government has done,” he said.
“It’s not money for jam, it’s not money for nothing. It’s there to connect you together. Sitting at home for three months and not talking to your employer is not the way to go.
“The message to employers and employees is we are all going through very hard times, we all need to have the right approach to what the government’s done, which is to keep people together and keep people active. The money’s not there for a holiday.”
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said unions would publicise companies that refused to apply for the scheme if they were eligible.
“We are calling on all employers who are eligible for JobKeeper to register,” he said.
“Unions will be ensuring that all union members get access by making representations directly to employers and by keeping track and making public those employers who refuse to apply.
“By not applying, employers are depriving their workers of money that will keep them out of poverty.
“All good employers will access the program as to do otherwise is immoral. Team Australia involves everyone doing their part.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter said receipt of JobKeeper payments “does not, of itself, disturb ordinary employment obligations under workplace laws”.
“For businesses that are effectively closed, there will often be work that is still required to maintain a business in a state of readiness for when the economic conditions improve and business is able to resume,” Mr Porter said.
“Businesses that are partially closed will still have useful work that can be performed.”
Mr Porter, who is also Industrial Relations Minister, said changes to the Fair Work Act that facilitated the JobKeeper scheme provided “the reasonable ability, in certain circumstances, for employers to alter duties, where the employee has the relevant skills and competency, it is safe to do so, and the duties are reasonably within the scope of the employer’s business operations”.
“I would expect that the overwhelming majority of employers and employees are able to work through this crisis together in a cooperative and collaborative way, being flexible to changed conditions, pitching in to do slightly different work if that is what is required to keep the business going and keep the connection between a viable business and their employees and this is exactly what the JobKeeper scheme allows for,” he said.
University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart said it was not clear whether an employer had to nominate all employees to access the scheme. While Treasury said a “one in, all in” approach was necessary, Australian Taxation Office guidance did not state all workers had to be nominated.