About a third of Australian workers are being ripped off by rogue employers who are holding back some or all of their superannuation entitlements, according to a report out today.
Research by Industry Super Australia and Cbus has found employers dodging superannuation payments are pocketing $3.6 billion per year from 2.4 million workers.
Under the mandatory Superannuation Guarantee, employers are required to contribute the current minimum 9.5 per cent into the super funds of any worker aged 18 and over earning $450 a month.
But using Australian Tax Office (ATO) and Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, the study suggests the average worker was short-changed a conservative $1,489, or four months of super, in 2013-14.
Industry Super Australia chief executive David Whiteley said despite the evidence of rogue employer behaviour, little was being done to tackle them.
“It’s disturbing that nearly a third of workers eligible for the super guarantee are being short-changed,” Mr Whiteley said. “As pension access tightens and home ownership declines, those missing out on compulsory super stand little chance of a decent standard of living in retirement.”
Hospitality, cleaning, construction most at risk
The study, Overdue: Time for Action on Unpaid Super, found workers aged under 30 were more likely to miss out on payments, with construction, hospitality and cleaning industries most at risk.
It said small and medium-sized businesses were least likely to pay the appropriate super guarantee to their employees and that $66 billion could be lost by 2024.
Cbus chairman and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks said the report highlighted the inaction to ensure workers received their full super entitlements.
“It’s not unusual to hear from members who have lodged a complaint with the ATO and are still waiting for answers,” Mr Bracks said.
“One has told us he was advised recovery of unpaid super could take up to 10 to 20 years.”
The report’s findings have been echoed in audience responses to the ABC.
“My ex-employer didn’t pay my super for 10 whole years,” one wrote.
“I rang and I rang the ATO, wrote letters and emails. There was an investigation but to no avail, they claim bankruptcy and move on. Over the years they have been bankrupt three times and yet they still continue trading.”
“My son … has never been paid superannuation by his current employer, although he has been employed since before the end of the last financial year,” another wrote.
“He has approached his boss about this with no success in being paid. He ‘will do it when he gets around to it’, is the reply.
“My son is afraid of losing his job if he takes it any further.”
ATO investigates 20,000 super complaints per year
In a statement provided to the ABC, the Australian Taxation Office said that took non-payment of superannuation guarantee (SG) payments by employers “seriously” and investigated all reports of non-compliance made to it.
The ATO said more than 150 staff specifically focus on SG compliance. They receive around 20,000 reports annually from people who believe they have not had superannuation paid by their employer.
“We examine every report and, where suitable, we follow up by making contact with the employer to seek confirmation, and if necessary we conduct audits and apply penalties,” the ATO said.
“Last financial year, we raised $670 million in SG [including penalties] from a range of ATO compliance review and audit activities. We raised 2,997 default assessments to employers as a result of reports from employees, totalling approximately $171 million in SG for the benefit of employees.”
However, Industry Super and Cbus are urging greater action by authorities to improve resourcing for the ATO to recover unpaid super and to bolster the enforcement of penalties for employers who fail to pay the super guarantee.
The report also urged the introduction of a enforceable mechanism for real-time payment, reporting and compliance of super payments from employers.
The superannuation guarantee was introduced in 1992 by the Keating government at a level of 3 per cent in a bid to boost retirement savings.
Since then, compulsory super payments have helped build a $2-trillion pool of retirement funds.
Online Source: ABC.net.au.