Jail time for Queensland wage thieves
New Queensland legislation will criminalise wage theft in bid to tackle the insidious threat to employees in the community.
The move follows a 2018 Queensland parliamentary inquiry into wage theft and a resulting report which found the practice was endemic throughout the state.
IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary Brad Hayes said our union applauded the decision to amend the Criminal Code to punish corporations and employers who steal from their employees.
“Unions have campaigned endlessly to recover stolen wages of members and ensure workers are paid properly, so it’s tremendous to see the government is getting serious about penalising those who steal from their staff,” Brad said.
“In a country like Australia, it is outrageous that any worker, particularly lower-paid and vulnerable workers, can have their wages stolen by employers,” he said.
Jail time for wage thieves
Wage theft takes many forms, including the underpayment of wages, unpaid superannuation, unpaid penalty rates, unauthorised deductions from pays, the misuse of ABNs and sham contracting.
As part of the reforms, a new streamlined small claims system will be implemented, to ensure a simpler process is in place for workers seeking to recover stolen wages, saving them time and money.
These proposed laws would see employers who commit wage theft face up to 10 years in jail for stealing and 14 years for fraud under amendments to the Criminal Code.
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the government has zero tolerance for thieving employers who deliberately rip-off workers, so are cracking down with tough criminal penalties for perpetrators.
Unions calls for change at federal level
Unions are celebrating the Queensland government’s decision, which comes shortly after Victoria passed similar wage theft legislation.
Brad said it is time for the federal government to follow suit and take long overdue action to implement the recommendations of the 2018 report.
“The Queensland government accepted all of the report’s 17 recommendations to address wage theft; however, 11 of the recommendations require action from the federal government,” Brad said.
“If implemented, these recommendations would bring an end to LNP’s WorkChoices era zombie agreements, give greater power to the federal regulator, address sham contracting, regulate the labour hire industry and reduce the burden of the wage recovery process upon employees.
“The best form of defense against unethical employers is union membership and I encourage all workers to join their union,” he said.
Any members who believe they may have been or are currently being underpaid, should get in touch with our union’s industrial team for support.
Read the Queensland government’s media release for more information on the new legislation.