Queensland passes laws making wage theft a crime
Employers found to be deliberately stealing from their workers will now face jail time under new laws passed in Queensland Parliament earlier this week. With wage theft affecting one in four Queensland workers, the measure will be of interest to those working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.
Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace, said the State’s Government was committed to protecting the rights of workers across Queensland, who lose a collective $2.2 billion each year in unpaid wages and superannuation.
“Far too often and for far too long, the stories of wage theft and underpayment have continued unabated” she said. “Today we have said enough is enough.”
Under the new laws the maximum penalty for stealing by an employer will be the same as the current maximum penalty for ‘stealing as a clerk or servant’, which is ten years’ imprisonment.
It will also now be easier and quicker to recoup unpaid wages.
Stronger penalty and deterrence measures, she added, recognise that the current framework “is not doing the job.” Special attention will be paid to the cases where wage theft is deliberate and systematic and part of an employer’s business model.
The new legislation was borne from a parliamentary inquiry which investigated the prevalence and impact of wage theft on Queensland workers, hearing first hand from workers and employers who agreed that more needed to be done to address this issue.
“The bare minimum these workers are asking for is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, to get what is legally owed to them” Ms Grace said, adding that, unfortunately, “for them that has not been the reality.”
“These laws will change this.”
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