WAGE THEFT COULD BECOME A CRIMINAL OFFENSE WITH BIGGER FINES TO PAYOctober 28, 2022
Many Australians would be surprised to learn how common wage theft is, and have possibly been affected at some point during their working lives.
The Inquiry into Wage Theft in Western Australia report was released on the 6th December 2019 and undertaken by former Chief Commissioner of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission, Tony Beech.
Mr. Beech found that the most common forms of wage theft were;
- Unpaid hours
- Non-payment of any wages, or allowances for work performed
- Underpayment of wages or entitlements
- Unauthorised or unreasonable deductions
- Non-payment of superannuation
The sectors most affected were hospitality, retail and contract cleaning, with a high number of permanent and temporary migrant workers targeted by some employers, who were knowingly taking advantage to maximise financial gain. Some cases were due to payroll and human resources not following correct procedures when processing pay, a lack of compliance and enforcing employment law and education and training.
The 2019 Inquiry report included 28 recommendations for future action on the matter, one of them was consideration of ‘’criminalising wage theft ‘’ in Western Australia. While the current law on underpayment or withholding wages can result in penalty fines, it is not a criminal offense. The only state to introduce specific legislation on wage theft is Victoria, with the Victorian Wage Theft Act 2020 commencing on July 1st 2021. Offences made under the Act face fines of up to $991,320 for companies and $198,264 for individuals and up to 10 years imprisonment.
The McGowan Government promised to take action against wage theft, some of the points he addressed were;
- Amending State Industrial laws to address wage theft
- Developing a range of initiatives including education campaigns and resources to raise awareness of employment rights and obligations
- Assisting employees with reporting wage theft anonymously, resolving underpayment issues and questions and providing information through www.wagetheft.wa.gov.au
While the government is doing their best to minimize this unlawful workplace activity, the reality is that wage theft continues to affect many innocent employees, with some people unsure of where to seek professional and correct advice. If you think you have been underpaid, or not received the correct pay and entitlements, give Workclaims Australia a call today.