Employment red flags… plus a bit of good news

by | Jun 3, 2024 | 0 comments

The report from CSMC’s national survey of single mothers, released earlier this year, revealed that single mothers are employed at equivalent levels to partnered mothers. Yet every single mother will tell you, when you are the sole financial provider for your family, issues around employment take on significant importance.

Recently, we have been made aware of a number of issues relating to work and employment that single mothers need to be aware of.

Stolen wages and entitlements

Last year saw a 43 per cent surge in people seeking assistance from Legal Aid, claiming to have been underpaid wages, entitlements or superannuation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also answered 330,000 enquiries last year relating to wage theft and has recovered $509 million in unpaid wages and entitlements.

While this may sound like good news – at least to those receiving back pay – many victims of wage theft are not so lucky. In cases where there is substantial back pay owed, some companies have been declared bankrupt, with their victims not receiving a cent.

If you suspect you may be being underpaid or are not sure that entitlements like superannuation are being paid, it’s worth seeking advice from an accountant or financial advisor. You can find a list of free financial counsellors here.

Non-compete clauses

They’re often deeply hidden within employment contracts but they can have a significant impact on your career and earning capacity. Non-compete clauses put a time and geographical frame around where you can work or start your own business. For example, a non-compete clause may prohibit you from working for a competitor in a 50km radius for a period of five years.

While once non-compete clauses were found largely in executive positions only, they are now widely used by businesses including trades and retail and even laid on casual workers. In fact, currently 22 per cent of workers are bound by non-compete clauses.

The Federal Government has now launched the Competition Taskforce to examine whether Australia’s competition laws, policies and institutions remain fit for purpose. One priority is to examine the impact of non-compete clauses and other restraints on workers and businesses. Many businesses expect that legislation may be introduced later this year to downgrade or get rid of these protections.

Until the law does change, the take-home message is to read any employment contract carefully and, if it contains a non-compete clause, consider carefully what that might mean should you decide to leave. If you are uncomfortable about signing a non-compete clause, it’s worth contacting your union or discussing your concerns with your employer.

Minimum wage to rise

The Fair Work Commission has announced that Australia’s minimum wage and award wages will increase by 3.75 per cent from July 1, 2024.

The decision will see the national minimum wage increase to $24.10 per hour and will affect about a quarter of all Australian employees.

That works out to an increase of about $33 a week to the current minimum wage. It’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of single mothers raising their families on minimum wage during a cost of living crisis, but it’s something.

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