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ATO urged to address ‘super rip-off’ impacting Qld workers

A national body has called on the ATO and politicians to address super contribution in Queensland, with new analysis showing the state’s cumulative unpair super debt has climbed past $5 billion in recent years.

Business Emma Ryan 12 January 2022
— 1 minute read

According to Industry Super Australia’s (ISA) analysis of tax data, more than 570,000 Queensland workers were not paid $940 million in super, losing an average of $1,600 in 2018/19. 


The body’s report, titled Super Scandalous: how to fix the $5 billion scourge of unpaid super, showed in six years, the state’s cumulative unpaid super debt has climbed to $5.5 billion. The research found young Queensland workers and those on lower incomes are most likely to be underpaid.

Commenting on the findings, ISA chief executive Bernie Dean said the issue needs urgent addressing by the ATO and politicians alike.

The report’s key recommendation for fixing the unpaid super scourge in Queensland is to mandate all employers pay super into a workers’ account when wages are paid, he said.

Not paying super with wages makes it difficult for workers to keep track of their money and allows payments to fall through the crack. Federal politicians have known about this solution for years but have failed to act.

Unpaid super creates an unequal playing field, as the employers doing the right thing are undercut by competitors who are ripping their workers off.

Workers must largely rely on the Australian Tax Office to recover their money as it is difficult to sue for super, but it only recovers a dismal 12 per cent of underpayments annually and rarely punishes dodgy bosses. If the ATO is unwilling or unable to recover Queensland workers’ savings the law should be changed so that employees, the Fair Work Ombudsman, and others acting on behalf of workers can.

The report outlined four measures it encouraged politicians to adopt to address the issue.

The first is to mandate super payment at the same time as wages. The second is to lift enforcement activity and force the ATO to issue and publicise penalties for not paying super – so dodgy employers can see there is a cop on the beat.

The third is to empower employees and representatives to recover unpaid super debts, and the fourth is to extend the Fair Entitlement Guarantee so workers can recoup their savings if a company goes bust.

Super is your money, it should be paid at the same time as wages. By not mandating the payment of super with wages, politicians are stopping millions getting what they are owed, Mr Dean said.

“Our federal politicians get their super paid on payday, so should all Queensland workers.

“Most employers are doing the right thing, but they are being undercut by competitors who are getting away with daylight robbery. Paying super with wages is the only way to get workers their money and level the playing field for business.”

ATO urged to address ‘super rip-off’ impacting Qld workers
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Emma Ryan

Emma Ryan is the deputy head of content at Momentum Media and editor of the company's legal publication, Lawyers Weekly.

Emma has worked for Momentum Media since 2015 and has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest stories in corporate Australia. In addition, she has produced exclusive multimedia and event content related to the company's respective brands and audiences.

A journalist by training, Emma has spent her career connecting with key industry stakeholders across a variety of platforms, including online, podcast and radio. She graduated from Charles Sturt University with a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism).