QLD brings Bill to Parliament in a bid to criminalise wage theft
A Bill which would see wage theft become a criminal offence has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament, targeting those employers who deliberately engage in underpaying employees, or not giving them access to their full range of entitlements such as penalty rates and superannuation.
The new legislation will also create “a simple, quick and low-cost wage recovery process for Queenslanders who suffer underpayment of their wages” the State’s Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said.
Employers who commit wage theft now 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 which will include Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioners conducting conciliation prior to a Court hearing.
“Your pay deserves to stay in your pocket” Ms Grace said, outlining that wage theft takes place on a variety of fronts, including unauthorised deductions from pays, the misuse of ABNs and sham contracting.
“During this COVID-19 global recession, we know every dollar counts” Ms Grace said.
“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.”
Ms Grace said that almost 25 per cent of Queensland workers aren’t being paid what they are entitled to, and that “they’ve had enough – and frankly, so have we.”
The Government, she added, would be “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.”
The new system would make the process “much simpler and less costly” for those employees seeking to recover their entitlements.
“Previously many ripped off workers had simply given up because the process was too complex and time-consuming” Ms Grace explained.
“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.”
To read more about wage theft in Queensland, please see here.