| 11.12,11. 02:29 AM |
Employers fail on child support
December 11, 2011
EMPLOYERS have prevented half a million dollars in child support payments from going to parents by refusing to comply with orders that the money must be deducted from their workers' wages.
A special investigations team has been set up by the Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek, after Centrelink received several hundred complaints about unpaid child support.
"The government has an obligation to ensure the children of separated parents receive proper support. While the great majority of parents who pay child support make payments on time and in full, it is deeply troubling that some parents, and some employers, repeatedly fail to do the right thing," Ms Plibersek said.
More than 400 employers have been investigated in the past year with 26 cases referred to the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Ten employers have been successfully prosecuted and $500,000 in missing child support payments restored to parents.
In one case a NSW company was fined $30,000 after failing to comply with legal notices to obtain employment details about an employee who had a significant child support debt.
In another, a South Australian company was fined $3360 after refusing to comply with a notice to withhold child support payments from an employee's wages.
People are able to have child support payments debited from wages and paid to their former partners.
Centrelink can also compel employers to direct the money when parents fail to pay what they owe.
More than half the parents - mostly fathers - obligated to provide financial support fail to pay in full each year, with many owing tens of thousands of dollars.
Single mothers call the trend a ''form of financial abuse'', while the government admits it struggles to keep pace with the increasing number of child support cases.
Ms Plibersek said the scope of the investigations covered employers who failed to provide information about employees to Centrelink or did not deduct money as required.
"The unit has also detected a number of particularly egregious examples where employers deducted amounts from an employee's wages and then kept the money for themselves,'' Ms Plibersek said.
''Investigators also learned several employers who failed to deduct support payments were involved in personal relationships with their employees and had children from previous relationships.''
Each year about $1 billion in child support payments go unpaid, despite a government crackdown including use of private investigators, court action and bans on overseas travel.