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Solomon Lew’s Just Group investigated over JobKeeper

When asked what the investigation related to, this masthead was referred to Fair Work’s online resources covering employers’ obligations when participating in the JobKeeper program.

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Fair Work is one of the many government agencies with oversight of the JobKeeper program. Its remit focuses on JobKeeper provisions in the Fair Work Act, which relate to stand down directions, amounts paid under JobKeeper, annual leave as it relates to JobKeeper and other issues with the program as it relates to workplace law.

This masthead is aware that retail union SDA has raised issues with Just Group in relation to the company’s management of workers on JobKeeper, including in relation to the amount paid to stand down workers on public holidays.

Fair Work’s guidelines state employers have to pay workers the higher amount per fortnight out of either the $1500 JobKeeper supplement or the worker’s usual pay for that period including any prospective public holiday pay.

The union has also asked the company to re-credit any leave taken by workers in March 2020 after the company closed its stores but prior to the announcement of JobKeeper. The union said Just Group refused, saying it wanted to treat both JobKeeper-eligible and ineligible workers equally.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Just Group said the company had “fully complied with all its legal obligations throughout the entire JobKeeper period”.

Premier Investments chairman and founder Solomon Lew.

Premier Investments chairman and founder Solomon Lew.Credit:Eddie Jim

However, the company did not confirm if it was aware of the FWO’s investigation or if the investigation was related to Just Group’s handling of JobKeeper, noting it routinely corresponded with Fair Work on a range of issues.

“On 26 March 2020, Just Group made the very difficult decision to close over 1200 of its stores globally, and stand down over 9000 team members due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 health crisis,” the company said.

“Just Group’s priority has been to support our team members, keep them in jobs and connected to the business during this once in a century health crisis.”

”Over and above any obligations, and despite not being eligible for ‘JobKeeper 2’, Just Group has continued to pay over 1,500 of its full time and part-time Australian team members their contracted hours whilst those teams were unable to work due to various state government-enforced temporary store closures in October, November, December 2020, January and February 2021.“

Premier Investments has been under increasing pressure to repay its JobKeeper subsidies after the company reported a surge in profits over the pandemic.

Earlier this year the company said it expected its earnings before interest and tax to come in at between $221 million and $233 million for the 27 weeks to January 30, a 75 to 85 per cent rise.

Last year, outgoing chief executive Mark McInnes received a $2.5 million bonus, a move that prompted a backlash at the company’s annual general meeting, with shareholders issuing a ‘first strike’ against the company.

Many other retailers including Gerry Harvey’s Harvey Norman have been under increasing pressure over their JobKeeper payments, with politicians and governance experts calling for them to repay the stipend after reporting massive increases in profits.

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