The Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, and the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer MP, will introduce new laws to stop corporate misuse of the Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme.
It is clear that some company directors are misusing the FEG scheme to meet liabilities that can and should be paid directly by the employer rather than passed on to Australian taxpayers. The FEG scheme is an avenue of last resort that assists employees when their employer’s business fails and the employer has not made adequate provision for employee entitlements.
The proposed changes will provide a significant disincentive for employers to exploit the taxpayer-funded scheme and avoid their responsibilities to their employees. The changes will:
- penalise company directors and other persons who engage in transactions which are directed at preventing, avoiding or reducing employer liability for employee entitlements
- ensure recovery of FEG from other entities in a corporate group where it would be just and equitable and where those other entities have utilised the human resources of the insolvent entity on other than arm’s length terms
- strengthen the ability under the law to sanction directors and company officers with a track record of insolvencies where FEG is repeatedly relied upon.
Costs under the FEG scheme have dramatically increased in recent years with FEG payments totalling more than $1 billion between 2012-13 and 2015-16. There is increasing evidence that some employers are deliberately structuring their corporate affairs to avoid paying employee entitlements when a business becomes insolvent.
The Government’s proposed changes to the Corporations Act will deter those businesses from engaging in practices that inappropriately shift costs onto FEG, while strengthening the ability to pursue recovery of FEG costs.
These changes will be targeted to deter and punish only those who have inappropriately relied on FEG. They will not affect the overwhelming majority of companies who are doing the right thing.
These changes build on the Government’s commitment to pursuing recovery of FEG payments from company directors through the FEG Recovery Program, which was established by the Coalition Government in 2015.
The Government is taking action to ensure employers are held responsible for paying their workers and that taxpayers are protected from corporate abuse of the FEG scheme.
The legislation will also support the Australian Government’s ‘Comprehensive Package of Reforms to Address Illegal Phoenixing’ announced on 12 September 2017.