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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 118 – Wage theft may be illegal, but it happens. Here’s how to handle it

No. 118 – Wage theft may be illegal, but it happens. Here’s how to handle it

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2 August 2023

One of my coworkers recently discovered our superannuation hasn’t been paid into our super funds for almost a year, despite it being included on our monthly payslips. When my colleague asked payroll, they said the company had instructed them not to tell anyone. I’m furious. Is there anything we can do?

This appears, based on your letter, to be a clear-cut case of wage theft. This is a serious issue and a situation the government has committed to crack down on. Your employer appears to be breaking the law and will be subject to serious penalties. It is unacceptable (and illegal) for your employer to seek to deceive you and your colleagues about the status of superannuation payments.

I would recommend you and your colleagues each lodge a report to the ATO, so they can begin an investigation. All employers have an obligation to pay superannuation at least quarterly, so if they have not been paying superannuation for almost a year the ATO will be able to investigate. If you are a member of a union, you can also contact them for advice.

I changed careers this year after a long time in education. The job is great, but our small team keeps getting sidelined with budget cuts, largely due to my boss’s relationship with their manager. My boss is adversarial in meetings, has a bad attitude and gossips about their manager. It’s a downward spiral. Should I say something?

Well, you could say something to your boss but the chances of that having any positive impact could be slim. Your boss sounds like they enjoy being confrontational and worse, their manager seems unable (or unwilling) to address the issue. It might be safest to suggest ways you can – as a team – avoid being sidelined and subject to cuts, like having different people on the team take the lead in some meetings. Hopefully, the more exposure your team has, the more it will be recognised that a leadership change is needed.

My daughter is a medical receptionist. During the first few months in the job, while the manager was on leave, she was given regular shifts twice a week. However, since the manager has returned, there’s been complete silence – no responses to my daughter’s enquiries about future shifts or feedback on her work. My daughter needs to work, but is concerned about having a black mark on her resume.

It never ceases to amaze me how some bosses lack even the most basic leadership skills. These skills are particularly important when dealing with younger, inexperienced casual workers who have very little power or control over their working lives. The lack of communication or explanation for why your daughter is no longer receiving shifts is an example of poor leadership.

Even though your daughter was a casual employee, she can make a claim for unfair dismissal in some circumstances. If she has worked in a role for six months or more, if her employment was otherwise regular, and she had a reasonable expectation of continuing her employment, then her dismissal may be classed as unfair. She can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman to understand her options.

Alternatively, your daughter may just decide to apply for a new casual job without worrying what has happened will be a “black mark” on her name. Being honest is best, and she can explain what happened given it was completely out of her control. If future employers see she has a strong work ethic, is reliable, hard-working and ready to start, they will soon understand that her former manager wasted an opportunity to keep her in their team.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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