While there is evidence that employment is recovering – SEEK jobs data to be released on Thursday ahead of official unemployment figures will show job ads are up 39.7 per cent in May – some say getting people back into the workforce has been held back by the government’s job support money.
Carolyne Burns, founder of recruitment company Expr3ss!, said that while there was a surge in rehiring across several sectors, many of her retail clients were reporting difficulties getting JobKeeper workers back into the workplace.
“We are seeing difficulties mostly in retail and hospitality because JobKeeper participants are not working and the business doesn’t know whether they should then hire more or not,” Ms Burns said, “It’s a serious problem.”
Businesses with a 30 per cent fall in monthly revenue between March 30 and September 27 are eligible for the $1500 a fortnight payment for each worker for six months, even if its turnover rebounds sooner.
Lee Boys, who runs the Organic Store and Kafe in Glenelg, South Australia, said she had encountered difficulties with workers receiving JobKeeper.
“There has been a lot of pushback – ‘I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that’, they say. All we are asking is that they do what they were doing before COVID,” Ms Boys said.
“And there is a sense of entitlement coming in where they say, ‘well it’s not the business’ money anyway, it’s the government’s’.”
Ms Boys says the JobKeeper program is also potentially keeping the lower-grade workers in place when she would rather swap that worker out for a more productive one.
‘The excuses are ridiculous’
ASX-listed shoe retailer Accent Group’s Daniel Agostinelli said there was some trouble early on with getting people back to work but things had since settled down.
However, the chief executive of another major retailer with more than 200 stores around Australia, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said he was having serious problems getting JobKeeper recipients back to work.
“I am actually writing a book called The Excuses to Not Come to Work because of COVID,” he said.
“About 30 per cent of our JobKeeper workers are not coming in and the excuses are ridiculous.
“We had one person say that she shouldn’t come in because her mother worked at the hospital and she couldn’t expose her to COVID. We checked and her mother hadn’t worked at the hospital for over a month.
“Then you have to go through the whole IR process on this – you have to sit down and work through the issue with them and you have to say they are abandoning their work.
“I think this is a significant problem because we may then need to pay for people we might not have needed.”
Payroll data from the ABS showed a 1 per cent rise in new jobs in May or about 124,000 new jobs. However, most economists expect Thursday’s unemployment figures will show a loss of 75,000 jobs in May.
National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said the issue was one of the key complaints of her members, representing 24,000 shopfronts across Australia.
“We have certainly seen and heard from our members that this is happening,” Ms Lamb said.
“This is hindering them from hiring new workers now. It does make it very difficult. The government needs to change the program to give more control to employers over rosters and staff coming into work,” she said.
“While there are legitimate reasons for people not to return, there are people who are using those reasons illegitimately and that puts the retailer in a very difficult position,” Ms Lamb said.