Employers have rorted tens of thousands of dollars from staff via JobKeeper and there are concerns there could be more abuses reported after legislation to extend the stimulus measure passed this week.
The Fair Work Ombudsman revealed to TheWest Australianit had received almost 1000 “requests for assistance” from employees who had not been given the full JobKeeper benefit by their employer.
“As at 30 August 2020, the FWO has received 998 JobKeeper-related requests for assistance,” an FWO spokeswoman said.
“Most resolutions were through education and advice, with employers generally quick to rectify any errors in their compliance with the JobKeeper provisions.”
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The regulatory body has only recovered just over $171,000 so far, with 212 cases still “under consideration”.
Figures obtained through Freedom of Information showed in July hospitality had the highest portion of reports, with 23 per cent of all requests for assistance coming from the sector. The second highest came from employees in health care and social assistance.
WA had the fourth highest number of requests for assistance, with 7 per cent of reports from the State. That was behind NSW at 32 per cent, Victoria at 30 per cent and Queensland at 23 per cent.
United Workers Union National Secretary Tim Kennedy said the union had received reports of workers being sacked for asking about receiving JobKeeper and pressured into accepting the subsidy on the employer’s terms.
Others were asked to provide up to $300 “cash-back” per week to employers in exchange for being nominated for JobKeeper.
“There are civil penalties for rorting JobKeeper but they are so rarely enforced under other circumstances that bosses know there is almost zero chance they will have to pay any substantial fine,” Mr Kennedy said.
Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke said it was “beyond belief” anyone would try to rip off the people they work with in the middle of a pandemic.
Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong said most employers weren’t intentionally rorting employees and were simply committing innocent mistakes.
“There are some dodgy people, that’s why we have regulators, but in the main it’s just confusion (about the payment),” he said.
“Employees haven’t covered themselves in glory either. Some are getting the payment and refusing to do any work.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg played down concerns around the rorting of JobKeeper through the program’s extension into March next year.
“The Australian Tax Office (will) conduct their normal compliance activities,” he said.
“What we’ve seen so far is that the JobKeeper program has performed a remarkable job.
“Treasury estimates we have saved some 700,000 jobs and prevented the unemployment rate being 5 per cent higher than it is today.”
Following the passing of the legislation on Tuesday, JobKeeper, which was set to expire this month, will be extended to March.
But the payment will be reduced from $1500 a fortnight to $1200 next month, before being docked again down to $1000 in April.