There are reports of employers exploiting workers over JobKeeper entitlements.
There are reports of employers exploiting workers over JobKeeper entitlements.

‘Disgraceful’ bosses rip off workers over virus

Scott Morrison has warned dodgy bosses trying to rip off workers by asking for cash kickbacks to secure the $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper payment are "disgraceful" and should be hit with the full force of the law.

Workers are entirely at the mercy of employers to get the cash because companies need to apply for the JobKeeper subsidy and can pick and choose which staff can get it.

If they decide not to claim and simply sack the workers, the stood down employees are only eligible for the dole which has been doubled to $550 for the next six months.

The $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper payment is taxed, which means workers are about $100 a week worse off if an employer declines to keep them on the books for the next six months and simply dump them on the dole.

The Prime Minister has warned that any boss who tried to take a "cut" of the new JobKeeper payments was breaking the law after claims emerged some rogue employers.

"That sort of behaviour where it occurs by employers is disgraceful and it's illegal, and they should be reported to the police and the ATO, to make sure that can be followed up,'' Mr Morrison said.

"It's not on, it is appalling behaviour. We will move quickly on that, and we will - we will receive any co-operation on that as we do on any other law and order issue."

Scott Morrison described warned against the ‘appalling behaviour’ by employers. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Scott Morrison described warned against the ‘appalling behaviour’ by employers. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Prime Minister's warning followed Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie's claim that a worker complained an employer was asking for "a cut" of the $1500 in cash.

"An employee let go three weeks ago was contacted by a former employer today offering JobKeeper but only if she gives them $600 of her payment,'' she said.

"She refused, employer no longer willing to file paperwork. We need a hotline for employees pressured to commit such fraud."

The employee in question would be much better off on the dole, however, which is currently $550 a week.

Unions have also warned the Morrison Government needs to do more to protect workers from bosses who won't apply for the payment and simply want to force workers onto the dole.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged cafes, pubs, and restaurants that had stood down workers and were eligible to apply to do so.

"What I say to those businesses who may have closed because of social distancing rules: You will still have employees that are on your books. You are eligible to apply,'' he said.

However, he conceded that some businesses did not have the cash flow to pay workers $1500 a fortnight until May when the JobKeeper subsidy started flowing.

MP Rebekha Sharkie says one employer demanded a $600 cut of an employee’s JobKeeper payment. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes
MP Rebekha Sharkie says one employer demanded a $600 cut of an employee’s JobKeeper payment. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

"For those that are struggling with their cash flow, they must go and see their bank. My understanding is that the bank will be accommodative. If they're not, contact you and contact us,'' Mr Frydenberg said.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus confirmed some employers who are eligible to apply for JobKeeper are telling their workers to just apply for the dole.

"We are calling on all employers who are eligible for JobKeeper to register,'' she 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."

JobKeeper is designed to prop up Australia's unemployment figures which could blow out to 15 per cent according to a Treasury modelling if the wage subsidy had not been introduced to help thousands of workers laid off under COVID-19 restrictions.

Originally published as 'Disgraceful' bosses rip off workers over virus


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