The Queensland Government has taken a firm stance on the increasingly prevalent issue of ‘wage theft’ with the passing of the Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020 by the State Parliament on Wednesday, 9 September 2020.
In 2018, the Queensland Parliamentary Education, Employment and Small Business Committee conducted an inquiry into wage theft in Queensland. On 16 November 2018, the Committee tabled its report – A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work? Exposing the true cost of wage theft in Queensland – making 17 recommendations to address wage theft in Queensland.
The Committee found wage theft to be endemic, affecting 437,000 Queensland workers and with an estimated cost of $1.22 billion in wages and $1.12 billion in unpaid superannuation annually.
Borne out of the recommendations made by the Committee’s findings, the new laws attempt to balance workplace rights and deter employers from engaging in this practice. Specifically, the new laws provide that employers who ‘steal’ or ‘underpay’ their employees, will be liable for a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The laws also make for the faster and cheaper resolution of fair work claims for unpaid wages in the Industrial Magistrates Court.
WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO DO
With the new laws to be enacted before the government is dissolved on October 6, we recommend that employers take immediate action to review and make necessary amendments to employment contracts, HR and payroll practices to ensure that they are paying their employees their legal entitlements.
If this article has raised any concerns for you or your organisation please do not hesitate to contact either John Hayward or Kate Smith on (07) 4046 1124, for advice specific to your circumstances.
This article has been prepared with the assistance of Ruby Hedrick, law graduate.
This alert contains general information only. For advice and assistance please contact our Employment Law team.