There has been wide coverage of the liquidation of Queensland Nickel, the company ultimately owned by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer. This has left hundreds of workers out of pocket and without employee entitlements in the order of some $74 million.
Ordinarily there would be little recourse for the employees except perhaps legal action against the company directors as individuals, however the Australian Government passed legislation to set up the Fair Entitlements Guarantee which aims to protect workers who are left out of pocket for the liquidation or bankruptcy of their employers. Eligible employees can apply for:
- Unpaid wages up to 13 weeks
- Unpaid annual and long service leave
- Payment in lieu of notice (that is, for the period to be paid after being given notice of termination, up to 5 weeks)
- Redundancy pay
An eligible employee would have to apply within 12 months of being terminated or the liquidation/bankruptcy, with contractors and non-citizens generally unable to claim.
The fund has had its fair share of usage and controversy, with $261.65 million being paid out under the scheme in 2012-13 and the government in 2014 making a failed attempt to cap payments. Major payouts include to a company managing employment by chocolate company Darrell Lea, electronics store Dick Smith and to a Malcolm Turnbull-backed company that monetised sporting content.
Queensland Nickel will join that list of infamous corporate collapses in Australia and the largest to date. The Government has appointed a special liquidator in an attempt to claim back some of the taxpayer dollars going to workers via the FEG scheme.
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