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Missing super: Where employers usually make mistakes

Not only are employees not chasing it, but some employers are neglecting to pay it – risking increasingly harsh penalties. HRM looks at where organisations often go wrong.

It’s the nest egg that’s supposed to cushion us from the trauma of old age and yet Australian workers’ pension funds are losing out to the tune of more than $17 billion.

Where has all the money gone?

The ATO has revealed that it’s holding $3.75 billion in unclaimed superannuation money for about 5.38 million account holders (You can now check your super contributions through the ATO’s myGov site).

In addition to this, almost $18 billion in lost super is waiting to be claimed.

And then there are the companies that are dodging their duty to pay staff by failing to contribute the mandatory 9.5 per cent of employee earnings to a super fund of their choice. In the most recently available data, the ATO estimated that there has been an almost $17 billion shortfall between what employers should be paying their staff and what they were actually paying from 2009-2015 (an annual average of $2.81 billion).

Employees most vulnerable are those who work for small businesses or are working part-time or casually – so in a lot of organisations that might not have a dedicated HR or payroll function.

John Collett writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, made the point earlier this year that this hasn’t been helped by the fact that the onus has been placed on employees to bring any non-compliance to the attention of their employers or the ATO. Cowed by job insecurity, many are reluctant to rock the boat.

In response, the government issued a consultation document in January this year that proposes a one-year jail term for employers who rip off their employees, along with financial penalties. And directors of companies that don’t pay super will come in for special attention with a ‘director identification number’ to help the Tax Office identify the culprits.

Where employers typically get superannuation guarantee wrong

PwC research from late last year suggests that these are areas where employers mostly trip up:

  1. Incorrect treatment of contractors. A contractor can still be deemed to be an employee for super guarantee (SG) purposes, depending on the nature of the contractual arrangements.
  2. Missing payments from the definition of ordinary times earnings when calculating 9.5 per cent superannuation contributions, particularly the omission of certain allowances and directors fees.
  3. Employers using clearing houses must ensure that sufficient time is allowed for it to make payments to the relevant super fund(s) within the 28 day requirement. SG obligations are not satisfied on payment to the clearing house; they are met when the super fund receives the contributions, with the exception of the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House. Most clearing houses require up to 10 days to process contributions.

The best course of action is for employers to conduct a review of their processes and payments to ensure they are complying with their legal obligations.

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