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Small businesses condemn government’s dobbing hotline

Image of a woman wearing a face mask at a cafe
(Source: Bigstock)

Small businesses have spoken out against the federal government’s new hotline for employers to report job seekers who refuse an offer, labelling it a “big stick approach”.

The reporting hotline is one of several changes to social security announced by the government on Tuesday, alongside a $50 increase to the fortnightly base rate of JobSeeker from April and stronger mutual obligations for JobSeeker and Youth Allowance recipients.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the hotline would allow employers to “refer Jobseekers who are not genuine about their job search or decline the offer of a job”.

“So that if someone does apply for a job, they’re offered the job and they’re qualified for the job but they say no, the employer will now be able to contact my department and report that person,” Minister Cash said.

Cash said either her department or Jobactive would follow up with job seekers who had turned down an offer to find out why they refused it.

“In the event that they do not have a valid reason, they will be breached for that,” Cash said.

For Simon O’Regan, owner of six Earl Canteen cafes in Melbourne’s CBD, the new reporting hotline is so heavy handed it verges on being unethical.

“I’m not quite sure from an ethical and employer standpoint that that’s a good idea,” O’Regan tells SmartCompany.

O’Regan says from a business owner’s view it is best not to hire someone if they do not genuinely wish to be there. This is particularly the case in the hospitality industry, O’Regan says, where staff need to be engaged to provide good customer service.

“If somebody is forced to be there, it wouldn’t stand to reason that that would be a good outcome for your customers,” he says.

“I don’t think using the big stick approach to say you must take a job is a good outcome for the individual or for employers.”

Small business groups are also unconvinced the reporting hotline will bring any benefit and say a supportive approach should be favoured over a “big stick approach”.

Peter Strong, chief executive of Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, doubts the hotline would work in practice and says the government should instead focus on more supportive measures.

“I certainly don’t think it’s going to work. In this current crisis, a big stick is not what we need. We need to support job seekers,” Strong tells SmartCompany.

Strong says there are job seekers who are unemployed for the first time and need encouragement to accept an offer that might not be ideal.

“So you don’t help them by attacking them, you get it to them by giving them support and constructive information,” he says.

In addition to the new hotline, the government will permanently increase the rate of working-age JobSeeker payments by $50 a fortnight and strengthen the obligations a JobSeeker recipient must meet to remain eligible for payments.

JobSeeker recipients must search for at least 15 jobs per month from April and then at least 20 jobs per month from July onward.

There will also be extra scrutiny of the job applications to ensure recipients are genuinely applying for positions.

This story first appeared on SmartCompany, and has been republished with permission.

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