BENDIGO workers are missing out on thousands of dollars in superannuation possibly putting their retirement in jeopardy.
About 16,500 workers in Bendigo East and Bendigo West missed out on super in 2016-17, at an average of $1418 per year.
Unpaid super in this region adds up to $23.48 million a year.
An industry figure says the problem is the result of employers holding back money from workers.
Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean described unpaid super as a "recurring nightmare" for workers in regional centres like Bendigo.
Mr Dean said regional centres were often hit hardest because employment conditions were less certain, with low paid work, precarious employment frequent.
He said retail, hospitality and manufacturing employees were most likely to be missing out on super.
Thirty-four per cent of Bendigo workers were not paid full superannuation entitlements in 2016-17.
Industry Super Australia has released the figures as part of calls to change federal laws to make super payable on payday.
Mr Dean said there was little deterrent for employers who held back superannuation from employees.
He said ISA analysed Australian Taxation Office receipts to work out how much salary had been paid to workers, and therefore how much super was owed.
Some employers held back money, or listed the contribution on payslips but did not pay it, Mr Dean said.
ISA said in a statement that an outdated law allowed super to be paid quarterly, rather than on payday.
Mr Dean said there was little deterrent to stop employers doing this.
"There's effectively not a cop on the beat. That lets unscrupulous employers get away with ripping their workers off," Mr Dean said.
"[The ATO] rarely fine any employers ... and the penalties have been woefully low.
"There's been no real track record of holding employers to account. That's let too many ... get away with ripping their employees off."
Mr Dean said unpaid superannuation early in someone's career could make a huge different to their retirement.
"If you're missing out on even a few years in entitlements ... about $2000 a year, that can mean tens of thousands less at retirement because of the power of compound interest," Mr Dean said.
"If you're missing out, then you're going to be way behind people who have regular contributions into their account."
Mr Dean said Bendigo workers should not have to solve the problem. Instead he said it was a systemic problem that could be resolved by a change in law.
"We've been calling for a relatively simple solution for a number of years. Which is to have the law changed, so the employers pay super on payday," he said.
Find out more about unpaid superannuation on the ATO website.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.