The tax office and the Fair Work Ombudsman have received thousands of tip-offs from Australians as unscrupulous bosses attempt to take advantage of JobKeeper payments.
The Australian Taxation Office has received 6,168 tip-offs relating to the JobKeeper scheme since it began in March, the ATO confirmed with Yahoo Finance.
The Fair Work Ombudsman also confirmed it had received 726 requests for assistance relating to JobKeeper.
Tip-offs to the ATO relate to employers claiming workers are ineligible, denying some or all payment, threatening termination, stand-downs or lower hours, or making unlawful changes to work arrangements.
“The ATO know that the overwhelming majority of Australians are honest and we want to see the JobKeeper assistance reach those who need it most,” said an ATO spokesperson.
Information received through a tip-off is cross-checked and the ATO assesses whether further action is required.
The further action might mean educating the employer to better understand employee eligibility requirements and to rightfully include employees in JobKeeper claims.
“Where we consider that the employer is seeking to obtain JobKeeper benefits they are not entitled to or they have not self-corrected after a help and educate contact, they will typically be subject to a review.”
The ATO will work with bosses to rectify any genuine mistakes, but will also deal with any illegal exploitation of the government’s stimulus packages.
Workers affected tend to be from the cafe, restaurant and food sector.
A Melbourne worker, named ‘Tim’, said he was sacked during Covid-19 when he could have been eligible for JobKeeper.
“Last day of parental leave and I got notified I wouldn’t have a job to come back to. My baby was 13 days old, and Covid was used as the excuse to fire me.”
After losing his job, he felt uncertain about being able to cover essential expenses such as nappies and rent, he told The Briefing.
Casual cafe worker, ‘Susie,’ was pressured into doing more hours at the cafe, but wasn’t able to because she was also studying full-time.
“When it comes to JobKeeper and the subsidies...the employer has the upper hand,” she said.
“So the difficult part of it was knowing what my rights were with JobKeeper and being able to talk to my [employer] in a way that wasn’t problematic.”
United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said most workers would be too scared to come forward, and this was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
“We’ve got examples of stories coming to us, wherein some instances claims have been made and employers have ghosted people, so put them on the books and left,” he said as reported in The New Daily.
“We’ve heard stories of employers skimming some off the top, and the most common was that workplaces where those who are on JobKeeper were required to move their hours from 14 hours a week to full time and every else didn’t get any work.
“It’s inequitable because the boss gets to decide who is legitimate and who is not. We’re dealing with employers in hospitality, farmwork, and wage theft is rampant, worker exploitation is rampant in those areas.
“Here we are putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”
Australians can make a tip-off to the ATO or find out more on their website.
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