The Government’s new JobSeeker employer hotline has been slammed as “unnecessary”, “punitive” and “disgusting” by unions and welfare groups concerned it will be abused by unscrupulous employers.
The new hotline will see job candidates who turn down a job offer reported to the department of skills and employment, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash revealed on Tuesday.
It’s establishment coincides with a $50 fortnightly increase to the base JobSeeker payment.
Unemployed Australians who are deemed to not have a “valid reason” to turn down a job offer would be “breached” for that, she said.
“If someone does apply for a job, they’re offered the job and they’re qualified for the job but they say no, the employer will now be able to contact my department and report that person as failing to accept suitable employment,” Cash said on Tuesday.
“This will then mean that my department can follow up with that person or alternatively, Jobactive can follow up with that person, to ascertain exactly why they said no to a suitable job.”
But the new measure has drawn criticism from business groups, unions and welfare groups, as well as sparking instant backlash online in light of the sexual harassment allegations that have rocked Parliament House.
Australian Council of Trade Unions President Michele O’Neil described the new hotline as “unnecessary” and “punitive”, skewing the power imbalance even further in favour of employers who might act rudely or inappropriately in an interview.
“Imagine a circumstance where someone is treated badly at the interview, where they’re harassed, or perhaps sleazy propositions put to them at the point where they’re going for a job. Then you’re saying that employer can dob in that unemployed woman for the fact that she’s knocked back a job?” O’Neil said.
“This is dangerous territory to give power to employers to further punish people who are simply looking for work.”
Australian Council of Social Services CEO Cassandra Goldie said the hotline was part of a narrative that further demonised unemployed people.
“We want to foster collaboration between employers, between social services, the union movement and, most importantly, people affected by unemployment to find solutions and create the great jobs of the future. Instead the government’s going down a path of distrust and division,” she said.
“We already have one of the strictest systems of income support compliance among comparable countries. Tougher mutual obligation requirements will just make life even harder for millions of people without improving their job prospects.”
Soon after Morrison and Cash’s Tuesday press conference, Australians took to Twitter to slam the new measure, which had earned the nickname ‘Dobseeker’.
In case it needs to be said, there are a lot of reasons people turn down jobs - including feelings it might be a terrible place for you to work. Setting up a 'hotline' for businesses to dob in those who turn down work so they'll lose their meagre payment is disgusting
— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) February 23, 2021
Prominent Australian author Jane Caro also echoed sentiments that women were left vulnerable if they turned down a job from sleazy interviewers, while others pointed out that employers could report women who didn’t comply with sexual suggestions.
It occurred to me immediately that sleazy employers could be verbally suggestive in an interview then report any woman who turned them down
— Dr Sally 🐨🐨 (@slsandpet) February 23, 2021
Hotline slammed amid Parliament House allegations
The employer reporting hotline announcement comes as the Liberal Party and Prime Minister Scott Morrison reel from allegations that multiple rapes and sexual harassment incidents have occurred within Parliament House, and were not appropriately investigated or escalated.
Morrison has now instigated four separate reviews into workplace culture in federal politics and his own party, with senior public servant Stephanie Foster tasked with reviewing processes for workplace complaints at Parliament House.
But it was not lost on Twitter users that the JobSeeker employer hotline had been announced ahead of a hotline for victims of sexual harassment within Parliament House.
Am I right that in this week a hotline to dob in poor people was set up before a hotline for people who’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed in parliament?
— Jonathan Brown (JB) (@JB_AU) February 23, 2021
if theres a job offer at parliament house and i was a young female theres no way i would want to accept it.
— Occupy Centrelink (@OccupyMyGov) February 23, 2021
Greens leader in the Senate Larissa Waters also joined the fray.
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) February 23, 2021
Labor candidate for Menzies Stella Yee also pointed out that there were other hotlines that should be prioritised.
How about a new hotline to report sexual misconduct in in Parliament?
How about a new hotline to report racist acts?
How about about a new hotline to report rorting of public funds?
I reckon these are more urgent than going after people on JobSeeker#abc730 #auspol
— Stella Yee (@Stella4Menzies) February 23, 2021