It’s not uncommon to hear of unscrupulous florist operators paying their staff wages in cash, off the books. Generally it’s when penalty rates come into play, like overtime and Saturdays and Sundays, but some aren’t afraid to pay it no matter what.
The risks associated with accepting cash and not declaring it are not always obvious to employees. And the rewards generally sway in favour of the dodgy employer, not the employee.
I want to point out two main things that people tend to miss when this topic comes up.
Firstly, and hopefully most obviously, it’s tax fraud and it’s illegal. It’s also in breach of the Superannuation Guarantee Act. As my accountant once put it, “people that are paid off the books in cash are part of a conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth”. Have a think about that word ‘Commonwealth'. That’s all of us. Yes, this is an expensive country to live in, and we pay high levels of tax, but there are plenty of good reasons for that including our geography, welfare system, and high living standards.
Think for a minute what would happen, as often does, if the Australian Tax Office audited your boss and you are called in to provide evidence. Are you really prepared to lie for them and carry the risks associated with getting caught? What if one of your colleagues is accidentally in conflict with your evidence?
Your boss, by paying you cash, shows you their true colours in regard to their ability to run a business successfully, their willingness to cut corners for money, and their general code of ethics. Do you really think someone like that will have your back if or when the proverbial hits the fan? I bet not. And on the colleague front, do you really trust everyone to stand strong under the pressure of an ATO audit and the possibility of a criminal record?
Secondly, and just as importantly, if you’re not being paid legitimately with an income declaration and you injure yourself, you are not insured by WorkCover Insurance. A lawyer may tell you they’ll support your claim, but of course they’ll say that when you have to pay them, win or lose.
There are cameras everywhere these days and hospital records are kind of hard to change dates on. There’s every chance the co-worker that witnesses your accident knows the risks, and is smart enough not to lie for you.
Remember, if you are dumb enough to say yes to cash, odds are there are people smarter than you out there who will catch you in the end. People who do this for a living – people with excellent bullshit radars. I’ve seen it first hand over the years on both fronts. I have also seen loyalty between co-workers be quickly thrown out of the window when the law is involved, as with a “trust me” employers facing large fines and legal fees.
So if you accept cash, have a good think about what you are paying. Then go find a job with someone who sleeps straight in bed at night. That way you will too.