New legislation to make wage theft a crime

A Bill to criminalise wage theft has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament.

Determined to tackle the issue head on, the Palaszczuk Government is amending criminal legislation to target employers who commit serious and deliberate wage theft.

The new legislation will also create a simple, quick and low-cost wage recovery process for Queenslanders who suffer underpayment of their wages.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said wage theft takes many forms including the underpayment of wages, unpaid superannuation, unpaid penalty rates, unauthorised deductions from pays, the misuse of ABNs and sham contracting.

“Your pay deserves to stay in your pocket,” Ms Grace said.

“And during this COVID-19 global recession, we know every dollar counts.

“More than $1.2 billion is syphoned out of workers’ pay packets each year in unpaid or underpaid wages and around $1.1 billion in underpayment of superannuation.

“Sadly almost 25 per cent of Queensland workers aren’t getting what they’re entitled to – they’ve had enough and frankly so have we.”

Minister Grace said the Government was coming down hard on dodgy employers with tough criminal penalties for those who deliberately and wilfully rip-off their workers.

“For years employees have faced specific criminal charges for stealing from their bosses,” Ms Grace said.

“These proposed laws would mean those offences would also apply for employers stealing from their workers.

“Employers who commit wage theft face up to 10 years jail for stealing and 14 years for fraud under amendments to the Criminal Code.”

To further support Queenslanders who are underpaid by their employer, a new streamlined small claims process will be set up.

This process will include Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioners conducting conciliation prior to a Court hearing.

“The new system is much simpler and less costly for workers trying to recover their entitlements,” Ms Grace said.

“Previously many ripped off workers had simply given up because the process was too complex and time-consuming.

“The threat of tough criminal charges for deliberate wage theft, together with the new streamlined process for recovering underpayment, will provide a strong incentive for employers in Queensland to do the right thing and pay workers their full legal entitlements.”

The reforms address the findings of the 2018 parliamentary inquiry into wage theft in Queensland which found the practice is endemic across the state.

More on wage theft is at www.oir.qld.gov.au/industrial-relations/wage-theft

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