Australians on JobKeeper are being forced to work more shifts than they’re paid and ‘work back’ sick days amid threats of having the support payment cut, a The New Daily investigation has found.
Many employees are too scared they will lose their positions to complain about the mistreatment, they say.
One Queensland man working for a major hotel group said he and his colleagues were forced to work unpaid hours.
“They said here’s your JobKeeper, you’ll work whatever we want,” Jonno* told The New Daily.
JobKeeper employees must be paid their usual rate of pay for the hours they work.
Jonno says his employer increased his hours but he was paid only the JobKeeper amount – effectively a pay cut.
“The minute we were on JobKeeper, we were all back to work. Straight away they were asking for 30 hours’ worth of work for just JobKeeper pay.
“They paid $654 after tax, which is about 21 hours on my pay rate and I was normally doing 30.
“We were doing three days, then they started to push it to three and a half, and some nights we were rostered to finish at 8pm and we closed after 8.30pm, and we were cleaning staff too so we had to stay on.
“I worked over 40 extra hours over four weeks, unpaid.”
In another instance, a factory worker in Victoria said she was told she would need to work extra shifts to make up for taking sick days.
And one long-term casual said the medium-sized hospitality company she worked for in regional NSW laid her off as quickly as possible – when they could have kept her on.
“I am one of the unlucky ones that have fallen through the cracks with the JobKeeper,” she said.
“All our permanents are getting it, but the casuals that have been with the company longer than 12 months are missing out.”
The woman, who did not want to be named, had been with the company since February last year and qualified for payments.
“To them, we are just a number. I’ve tried everything in my power, even sent links from Australian Tax Office sites, pretty much saying we are entitled to it and we still can’t get it.
“It’s had a pretty big impact on us. My husband’s work was cut down as well … so our weekly income had pretty much halved and with kids and bills it was hard.
“We have seen the true colours of this company during this hard time.”
Another woman in Victoria was threatened with having her repayments suspended if she took more carer’s leave – after taking five days off to look after her sick children.
“I’ve been unable to go to work and have missed five shifts over a three-week period due to them being unwell,” she said.
“I talked to my employer about it and they advised me if I miss another shift, my JobKeeper will be stopped. It’s hard because there is literally nobody else to care for my kids.”
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, Maurice Blackburn principal Giri Sivaraman says.
“I’ve seen people being made redundant when they’ve applied for JobKeeper … and situations where casuals have been told you need to work extra hours and full-timers are being reduced … so full-timers find their pay reduced.
“And I’ve had someone where their employment ended and the employer said, instead of giving you annual leave we want you to finish up and we’ll have just given you JobKeeper for a month.”
He said Maurice Blackburn is dealing with a high number of disputes in relation to JobKeeper.
“I think what it shows that the scheme is much more complicated than people realise. There are some employers trying to rort the scheme … is it surprising?”
Many of the employees on JobKeeper who spoke to The New Daily were too scared to complain, fearing they would lose their job.
Mr Sivaraman said this was a big issue.
“Compound all that with employees being really scared about speaking up because employment is precarious at the moment, so they think, ‘What if something happens, where will I find other work?’”
“Their lack of power is really compounded.”
Employees have three options if they feel they are being mistreated, he said.
“You can notify a JobKeeper dispute to Fair Work, you can contact the Ombudsman, that being said, they have enormous backlogs and, of course, you can get legal advice,” Mr Sivaraman said.
United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said the fact employees were scared to come forward showed the system needs to be changed.
“The core issue is the design of JobKeeper is fundamentally flawed. It doesn’t flow directly to workers. It’s mediated by employers.”