This article was provided by Brian Beecroft CEO of Timber Trade Industrial Association.

Earlier this month, the Queensland Government amended the Criminal Code to enable wage theft to be prosecuted following a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry which determined there was endemic wage theft across Queensland.

Employers who are found to have wilfully or deliberately failed to pay their employees could be prosecuted.  The maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment or 14 years’ if an employer has defrauded an employee.  The new wage theft provisions commenced on 14 September 2020 and will capture conduct from the date of commencement of the new laws.

Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations and Education, Grace Grace (not a typo) released the following statement.

“These new laws recognise that the current framework is not doing the job – something needs to change to stop rampant wage theft.

Stronger penalty and deterrence measures are needed for those who commit wage theft, particularly where it is deliberate and systematic and part of an employer’s business model.”

According to Grace, one in four Queensland employees is affected by wage theft, an action that leaves workers $2.2 billion out of pocket each year in unpaid wages and superannuation.

The new laws come after a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of wage theft on Queensland staff.

It is recommended that employers carry out payroll audits to ensure they are paying their employees correctly and are compliant with the provisions of any applicable modern award, enterprise agreement or the terms of any employment contracts in place.  A wide range of non-payments are included within the legislation including, unpaid penalty rates, the underpayment of hours, unpaid superannuation and unreasonable deductions.

Similar legislation has been enacted in Victoria in June this year with the proposed legislation expected to come into effect from 1 July 2021.  The WA Government may also follow suit soon following a recent inquiry into wage theft released in December 2019.

This article was provided by Brian Beecroft CEO of Timber Trade Industrial Association.

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