Wage theft is now a crime - what is it?

Wage theft is now a crime - what is it?

The Palaszczuk Government has passed wage theft legislation where employers (such as Directors and business owners) may be charged with a criminal offense if they are found to have intentionally underpaid their employees. The criminal offense could be deemed as ‘Stealing’ with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment or ‘Fraud’ with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Wage theft can take various forms such as, but not limited to:

  • Underpayment of wages
  • Not paying penalty rates, overtime, weekend rates or public holidays correctly
  • Payment ‘in kind’ (such as payments in meals, discounts etc instead of wages)
  • Paying cash in hand
  • Not paying employees wages to attend training (including TAFE for apprentices) or staff meetings
  • Withholding leave entitlements
  • Failing to make required superannuation contributions.

An employee can lodge a wage theft claim against their employer by:

  • Raising the query informally directly with their employer (it is strongly encouraged employers take these queries seriously and act on it if underpayments are found to be correct);
  • Seeking assistance from the union;
  • Making a complaint with Fair Work Ombudsman (for wages and other entitlements) or the ATO (for superannuation)
  • Seeking legal advice and lodging court proceedings which would be referred for a compulsory conciliation hearing in the first instance.

Employers cannot dismiss, threaten dismissal or discriminate against an employee due to making a query regarding their wage or their membership or non-membership of a union

It is now essential for employers to know what to pay their employees in line with the relevant Modern Award and know the entitlements each employee is to receive.

Contact the MPAQ HR team on 07 32730 0800 to discuss any wage queries, or to book in a free HR Health Check consultation.

Article written by MPAQ HR Advisor, Emma Ross 28/09/2020.

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