Solomon Lew’s Just Group investigated by the workplace regulator over use of $70 million in JobKeeper payments

Solomon Lew

Premier Investments Chairman Solomon Lew. Source: AAP Image/Julian Smith

Premier Investments-owned retail giant Just Group is under investigation by the workplace regulator in relation to its compliance with JobKeeper provisions in workplace law.

The owner of fashion retail chains such as Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Just Jeans and Portmans, Just Group received $70 million in JobKeeper from the federal government, however, its use of the payments is now subject to an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson confirmed the regulator is currently investigating Just Group but did not provide any further details.

“As this matter is ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time,” the spokesperson told SmartCompany.

Premier Investments received $70 million in wage subsidies during the coronavirus pandemic and paid dividends totalling $57 million, with the greatest share of $24 million going to billionaire Solomon Lew, The Guardian reports.

The ASX-listed company told its shareholders it was eligible for the first phase of JobKeeper, mainly across its Victorian stores, in the first quarter of the financial year.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s role in overseeing the $100 billion JobKeeper scheme is focused on ensuring employers were complaint with the temporary JobKeeper provisions in the Fair Work Act.

The peak retail union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), which SmartCompany understands has not been in discussions with the Fair Work Ombudsman about the investigation, contacted Just Group on behalf of its members in March last year.

At the time, the SDA enquired about whether Just Group would reinstate leave entitlements to workers who had used their leave while being temporarily stood down before JobKeeper kicked in.

The investigation into Just Group comes amid calls, led by Labor Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, for large firms to repay JobKeeper if they recorded surging profits, paid out dividends to shareholders or paid executive bonuses.

Toyota was the first company to return $18 million in wage subsidies in January. Since then, there has been a growing rift between the firms that have voluntarily repaid JobKeeper payments and those that haven’t.

Firms that have given back JobKeeper

  • Toyota repaid $18 million
  • Super Retail Group returned $1.7 million
  • Iluka Resources repaid $13.6 million
  • Domino’s returned $792,000
  • Collins Foods repaid $1.8 million
  • Cochlear repaid $23.1 million
  • Healius repaid $1.3 million

Firms under pressure to give back JobKeeper

  • Accent Group received $24.5 million
  • Premier Investments received $70 million
  • Harvey Norman received $14.5 million
  • Crown Entertainment received $210 million
  • Seven West Media received $47 million
  • Eagers Automotive received $130 million
  • City Chic received $3.5 million

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