The Palaszczuk Government will introduce legislation to make wage theft a criminal offence.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said amendments to the state Criminal Code will be introduced to tackle wage theft head-on, following a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry.
“Our wage theft inquiry found that almost one in four Queensland workers is not receiving the pay they are entitled to,” Ms Grace said.
“Wage theft is taking around $1.2 billion out of workers’ wages each year and more than $1 billion from workers’ superannuation.
“Enough is enough.”
Ms Grace said employers who commit wage theft in future will be liable to a maximum term of imprisonment for 10 years for stealing or 14 years for fraud.
“The Criminal Code as it currently stands comes down very hard on workers caught with their hand in the till,” Ms Grace said.
“But there’s no offence for unscrupulous bosses who intentionally steal from their employees or defraud them.
“These amendments will rectify that inequity and send a strong message to employers that wage theft is not acceptable – it is a crime”.
Ms Grace said while wages and conditions for private sector workers were primarily a Commonwealth Government responsibility, the Federal Government have been sitting on their hands on this issue since 2013.
“In the absence of any Commonwealth leadership, we are determined to do all we can at a state level to stamp out wage theft,” she said.
“If our action at a state level prompts the Federal Government to finally take action then we will welcome that, but any measures they introduce must be properly enforced.”
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said a new streamlined small claims process will be introduced to further support the 437,000 Queenslanders being underpaid each year.
“For workers, their first and main priority is to get back what is owed to them,” she said.
“But almost half of workers who experience wage theft don’t try to recover the monies owed to them because the process is complex and time-consuming.
“Once the new system is in place, wage recovery processes will be far simpler and more user-friendly.”
More on wage theft is available at www.oir.qld.gov.au/industrial-relations/wage-theft