The Australian Greens dissent from the majority committee report
recommendation that the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path:
Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016 (the Bill) be passed.
A number of submitters raised concerns about the tight timeframe for the
inquiry on the legislation. The Australian Greens share their concerns and note
that due to the limited time allowed for this inquiry, there was no possibility
for a public hearing.
The lack of detail in the legislation is concerning. All measures
relating to the internship element of the Youth Jobs PaTH Program (PaTH
Program), such as the payment of the incentive payment, should have been
included in the Bill to enable the measures to be scrutinised by the
The PaTH Program was announced in the 2016-17 Budget. The PaTH Program
focuses on the employability of young people, rather than the lack of jobs
currently available in the job market. This illustrates that the PaTH Program
is another example of the Government ignoring the real problem, the lack of
available jobs for young people. A number of submitters to the inquiry pointed
out the PaTH Program will not lead to the creation of new jobs that are so
desperately needed in order to provide ongoing employment opportunities for
young people. As Anglicare Australia says in its submission, ‘[t]here needs to
be a broader approach to economic restructuring if all young people facing
barriers to employment are to have reasonable hope of future work.’
A number of submitters noted that the PaTH Program is similar to the
failed Youth Employment Scheme (YES) in the UK and the wound-up Irish Job
In this regard, Jobs Australia says in its submission:
In respect of “internships” as a means of assisting young
unemployed people, we note in particular, the Irish Job Bridge program on which
Youth Jobs PaTH is at least partially based (and which unfortunately came to be
known as “Scam Bridge”) has been discontinued as a consequence of high levels
of exploitation of young people and displacement of existing workers and the
controversial experience of a similar program in the UK. This overseas
experience points to some of the risks involved in Youth Jobs PaTH and
reinforces the need to implement robust safeguards to ensure that the
Australian program does not experience the same problems and that young people
get the best possible experience to help them on the way to a job.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) says in its submission:
The United Kingdom government tried a similar scheme in 2013,
the Youth Employment Scheme (YES), which launched in January 2013 and was wind
up in July 2014 with fewer than half the estimated placements having been made
and no clear increase in real job placements. The YES scheme, like the PaTH
program, had a top up element for the participant, a subsidy for the employer,
took place over two tranches, a shorter work experience component and a longer
skills development component. It is our view that adopting a failed program
from the United Kingdom is not an effective or efficient way of reducing youth
The Australia Greens agree that replicating these unsuccessful overseas
schemes is unlikely to assist in decreasing the high levels of youth
employment. The Government should instead be investing in individualised
supports and quality training programs.
The Australian Greens’ key concerns about the PaTH Program relate to the
limited remuneration the internship participants would receive, the limited
protections provided to the internship participants, whether the internships
are genuinely voluntary, the definition of internships, the possibility of
existing employees being displaced and “interns” being churned. We are also
concerned that much of the PaTH Program is not covered by the legislation.
The Australian Greens are aware that the Bill only contains provisions
The exemption of the fortnightly incentive payment of $200 from
being counted as income so as not to affect the income support payments of the
internship participants; and
The suspension, rather than cancellation, of income support for
up to 26 weeks for young people hired under a Youth Bonus Wage Subsidy so they
are not required to reapply if they find themselves unemployed ‘through no
fault of their own’
within the 26 week time period.
Limited remuneration for participants
A number of submissions raised concerns that participants in the PaTH
Program internships would essentially be working for less than minimum wage if
they worked 25 hours a week. The exception to this is 17–18 year old participants
who live away from home.
In its submission, the ACTU says:
There must also be significant concern however that PaTH may
serve to undermine the minimum wage system. The current program settings, hours
worked and additional payments per fortnight, mean that the interns in this
program are paid below minimum wage, potentially creating pressure on existing
employees’ wages or conditions.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) suggests that the
possible fortnightly hours should be limited to 30, rather than 50 for the
This would ensure participants receive ‘the equivalent of the relevant hourly
Anglicare Australia says in its submission:
More needs to be done to guarantee that the wages, conditions
and employment opportunities of existing workers will not be undermined by the
introduction of interns. We agree with others who have argued that if this
scheme is to go ahead, interns should be paid minimum or training wages to
minimise this risk.
The Australian Greens are concerned about the limited remuneration
participants in the PaTH Program internships will receive. At a minimum,
participants should be receiving the equivalent to the set minimum wage. If the
participants do not receive the minimum wage, there is more chance of
businesses exploiting them and other workers suffering as well.
Limited protections for participants
The legislation does not provide protections in relation to working
conditions for those young job seekers who choose to undertake an internship
A number of submissions raised concerns that internship participants are
not protected from working non-standard hours. This is troubling because
participants required to work on the weekends for example would not receive
ACOSS says in its submission:
Either participants should be classified as employees (with a
wage subsidy) or the program should not allow work beyond standard working
hours (averaged over a fixed period) or at times that would attract penalty
rates of pay if the person was employed (such as weekends)[.]
Jobs Australia suggested the legislation be amended:
[T]o ensure that times of “work” or unpaid work experience
are restricted so that interns are not required to “work” during times which
would attract penalty payments under relevant awards – (the risks of
exploitation and displacement of existing workers are extremely high in these
circumstances and particularly in industries with highly variable levels of
employment and of casual work – where it could be difficult to discern whether
displacement is occurring)[.]
The Australian Greens do not want to see young people exploited by
businesses that take them on as ‘interns’ under the PaTH Program. It is
imperative that participants are appropriately remunerated for the work they do
and that they are only required to work standard hours, if they are not going
to be paid the prescribed rate for non-standard hours.
Health and safety
Health and safety protections also appear to be inadequate for
ACOSS notes that given the participants are not employees it is possible
they will not be covered by laws governing health and safety in the states and
ACOSS recommended that:
Either State Occupational Health and Safety Laws should apply
to participants, or employment service providers (or better still an
independent mentor) should be required to:
explain to participants the protections available to them
regarding health and safety in the workplace before an internship commences
(both verbally and in writing);
offer advice and assistance in the event that health or safety
are at risk; and
monitor workplace health and safety in respect of interns.
The Australian Greens want to see adequate health and safety protections
in place for internship participants.
There are concerns regarding the insurance cover that will apply to the
internship participants and that it will not be the same level of cover as is
provided to employees under the schemes of the states and territories.
UnitingCare Australia says in its submission:
UnitingCare Australia also notes concerns regarding young
people’s access to workers’ compensation schemes in the event of them
experiencing a workplace incident or accident whilst participating in the PaTH
program. It is unclear the extent to which different schemes operating in
states and territories will extend to provide the appropriate protections for
young people undertaking PaTH. As previously noted, this issues largely relates
to ambiguity around the nature of work that will be undertaken whilst participating
in the program, and if this subsequently defines participants as ‘volunteers’
or ‘employees’ – the former may prevent their ability to access workers’
compensation. Further consideration is required regarding how protections can
be provided for young people voluntarily undertaking work placement through the
As ACOSS says in its submission:
The Department has its own scheme for participants in
employment programs but we understand this generally provides lesser benefits
than State Workers Compensation Schemes, no periodic payments, and no
entitlement to rehabilitation.
ACOSS then says:
Either participants should be covered by State Workers
Compensation schemes or equivalent coverage should be negotiated by the
It is necessary that internship participants have access to adequate
workers compensation cover in the event of an accident. The Department’s
current cover for employment program participants is inadequate in the view of
the Australian Greens.
The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about the lack of protections
provided through legislation and otherwise to the internship participants
because they are not classified as employees.
The Australian Greens have been, and continue to be, concerned about
whether the internships are genuinely voluntary or whether young job seekers
may be forced to include an internship placement in their Job Plan by their
jobactive service provider, meaning they could face penalties if they do not
comply with the requirements of their plan.
Jobs Australia suggested the legislation be amended:
[T]o incorporate a clear stipulation that participation in
internships is voluntary and that there will be no income support penalties as
a consequence of failure to attend or participate or for ceasing a placement
(to ensure there are no subsequent adjustments to administrative arrangements
which could result in participation being mandatory and relevant job seekers
being subject to penalties)[.]
In their joint submission, the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network
Australia and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia
raised concern regarding the authority some migrants and refugees confer upon
service providers acting for the Government and the potential for those migrants
and refugees to ‘regard the presentation of what is actually a voluntary
option, as a requirement that must be followed.’
These internship placements should be genuinely voluntary and provision
should be made to ensure that they are. Provision should also be made to ensure
that information regarding the internship placements is provided in the job
seekers preferred language to ensure there are no misunderstandings about what
is and is not required.
Displacement of existing employees and churning of interns
There is concern that availability of PaTH Program “interns” may lead to
existing employees being displaced and replaced with internship participants.
There is also concern that businesses may “churn” through interns, rather than
fill a vacancy.
The ACTU in its submission says:
The ACTU is concerned that the scheme may encourage employers
to replace existing minimum wage workforces with government sponsored interns
or to reduce their wages or conditions. Interns are not paid superannuation or
subject to worker’s compensation and so represent a significant saving to
employers when compared to regular employees.
In its submission, Interns Australia says:
Interns Australia is surprised the Bill contemplates so
directly many of these new employees being fired ‘through no fault of their
own’. As employers will receive a subsidy for employing these individuals, we
have concerns this provision may encourage employers to hire an employee to
receive the subsidy, terminate their employment, then hire another employee to
receive the subsidy again. This will worsen a similar phenomenon created by the
incentive payment to internship providers under the internship programme...
Interns Australia would like to see a counterbalance included in the Bill to
prevent this ‘churn culture’ from developing.
In its submission, ACOSS says:
A set of rules should be formalised by Legislative Instrument
to restrict the scope for ‘displacement’ and ‘churning’, and ensure that host
organisations that engage in these practices cannot host more interns under the
The Australian Greens are deeply concerned that the PaTH Program
internship placements may have an effect on the existing workforce of
participating businesses and that some businesses will exploit the intention of
the PaTH Program to gain cheap labour. There is no legislative safeguard to
stop either the displacement of current employees or the continued use of
interns for a vacant position.
The Australian Greens recommend that the bill not be passed, in
its current form.
Senator Rachel Siewert
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