Superannuation: Make sure you’re getting it!

Do you get paid your superannuation? Do you know what superannuation is? It seems a growing number of workers are owed superannuation entitlements from employers. Superannuation is basically a pension scheme.

It has a compulsory element whereby bosses are required by law to pay a proportion of their employee’s wages (currently set at nine percent) into a superannuation fund, which can be accessed when the employee retires.

The Age newspaper reported today that the amount of collectable debt from employers who have failed to pay employees’ superannuation has increased each year over the past five years. Outstanding debt rose from $122.5 million at June 30, 2003, to almost $300 million by March 31.

According to evidence provided by the Tax Office at a Senate estimates hearing last month, about 26,000 employers have still not paid employees’ compulsory superannuation payments, potentially affecting up to 364,000 individuals! UNITE believes this could be a conservative estimate.

Many employees will never be able to get money owed. Separate figures from the ATO, obtained by Senator Nick Sherry in response to a question on notice, show more superannuation debts are being written off.

The amount written off as a result of employer insolvencies jumped from $49 million in 2003-04 to $55 million in 2004-05. Employers who fail to pay their employees’ superannuation guarantee contributions quarterly are charged interest and an administration fee by the Tax Office. But employers are exempt if the company becomes insolvent, which has left thousands of employees unprotected. This is theft on a grand scale.

The Federal Government introduced a bill last month to give employees greater protection in cases of insolvency. Under the proposed changes, superannuation would be considered the same as other entitlements such as wages and annual leave, and would be paid out of a company’s assets after creditors are paid. As is always the case banks, the tax office and other companies are always paid before workers receive their entitlements.

Employers in areas such as fast food and retail with large numbers of casual staff are the most likely not to be paying their employees superannuation. UNITE encourages all workers to visit the superannuation info website at http://www.ato.gov.au/super/ to check whether your boss is making the compulsory super contributions. Remember its your money and it is only what you are owed. Don’t let dodgy employers rip you off!

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