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War waged on wage theft

  • July 16 2020
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War waged on wage theft

By Grace Ormsby
July 16 2020

Queensland has vowed to stamp out wage theft in the state, which costs the state’s workers more than $1.2 billion in unpaid wages each year, and a further $1.1 billion in underpaid superannuation.

War waged on wage theft

War waged on wage theft

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  • July 16 2020
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Queensland has vowed to stamp out wage theft in the state, which costs the state’s workers more than $1.2 billion in unpaid wages each year, and a further $1.1 billion in underpaid superannuation.

War waged on wage theft

Criminal legislation will be amended in the state to “target employers who commit serious and deliberate wage theft” after a new bill was introduced in Queensland’s Parliament, a statement from the minister for industrial relations, Grace Grace, has explained.

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

The new legislation will also allow for the development of a simple, quick and low-cost wage recovery process for anyone who does suffer from underpayment.

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

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

How does wage theft affect workers?

According to the MP, more than $1.2 billion is siphoned 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,” she continued.

According to the minister, the government will be coming down hard on “dodgy” employers – with criminal penalties to come into play for anyone who is “deliberately and wilfully” ripping off their workers.

“For years, employees have faced specific criminal charges for stealing from their bosses,” she commented.

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

The new laws will see employers committing wage theft face up to 10 years in jail for stealing and 14 years for fraud under amendments to the Criminal Code, while a new small claims process to provide a “much simpler and less costly” avenue for entitlement recovery for affected workers.

Ms Grace has acknowledged that 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,” she stated.

Lawyers back reform

It’s a move that has been welcomed by lawyer Giri Sivaraman.

The Maurice Blackburn principal and head of employment law in Queensland said wage theft has occurred across the state for years.

“Wage theft is broad in nature across many different industries and employer types,” he commented.

“In some industries such as hospitality, wage theft is endemic ,and what we have seen in the media to date on these cases is just the tip of the iceberg.”

He said the new laws will go a long way in balancing workplace rights, as well as deterring employers from stealing from employees.

“For too long, employers have gotten away with wage theft because the penalties were simply not a deterrence,” he considered.

“And with the economy being buffeted by COVID-19, the Palaszczuk government should be congratulated for introducing laws that will ensure workers receive every dollar they are entitled to.”

“These new laws are a terrific result for the union movement and for Queensland,” he concluded.

War waged on wage theft
War waged on wage theft
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About the author

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Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

About the author

Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

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