Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten has exercised discretion to expedite access to the Government’s General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) for staff made redundant from numerous Darrell Lea stores since administrators were appointed on 10 July.
“After receiving clear advice from administrators that there is a very strong likelihood Darrell Lea will go into liquidation, we can now move to ensure workers can access GEERS assistance faster,” Mr Shorten said.
“My department is in contact with the insolvency practitioners to arrange expedited access to GEERS claims and payments.
“This means that workers can access their unpaid entitlements sooner and not have to wait until the companies go into liquidation at a later time.
"The collapse of Darrell Lea represents exceptional circumstances. I am satisfied that my decision today is consistent with the intention of the scheme and is not being used to facilitate business restructuring.”
A locally-owned private confectionary company, Darrell Lea employed around 700 people across its Sydney based manufacturing network and 69 locally-owned and licensed stores when it entered administration.
On 3 September, administrators announced the sale of Darrell Lea and while the manufacturing and distribution operations would continue, the retail network will not. Following closure of 32 stores at the beginning of August, the 27 remaining retail stores will cease trading on 9 September 2012.
“GEERS assistance is now anticipated to be required for all permanent employees, with indications that the total cost of this assistance will be around $17 million, subject to employee eligibility and unpaid entitlements being verified,” Mr Shorten said.
GEERS helps workers recover entitlements including:
- up to 3 months unpaid wages
- unpaid Long Service Leave
- unpaid Annual Leave
- up to 5 weeks Pay in Lieu of Notice, and
- redundancy pay (capped at four weeks for each year of service).
While early access to GEERS is processed, Darrell Lea workers can continue to access a range of Government support through Job Services Australia providers, including help with job applications and interviews, and other career advice.
Where workers are located in Priority Employment Areas, the Local Employment Coordinators in each area are working closely with local stakeholders to help support these redundant workers.
Any redundant workers aged 45 and over can also access free, professional career counselling through the Experience+ Career Advice service.
The Career Advisers will help mature age workers make informed decisions about their future and become more confident to achieve their workforce goals, such as identifying their transferrable skills, exploring appropriate career options and preparing a plan of action to help them find a job.