EMPLOYERS could face 20 year jail terms if their negligence leads to the death of an employee, under tough new laws proposed in Victoria.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Labor will add the manslaughter offence to the State Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 if re-elected later this year.

Under the proposed law, the state will carry the heftiest safety fines in Australia, with a maximum of 100,000 penalty units ($15,857,000).

This is much higher than the maximum fine of $10 million for the same offence in Queensland, where new laws were introduced last year.

In a statement, the Victorian Government said WorkSafe will be responsible for prosecuting employers who do the wrong thing.

As part of the changes, the Labor Government will establish an Implementation Taskforce, including business and unions, to consult on the detail of the proposed laws.

The CFMMEU has now called on the Labor Government in Western Australia to follow Victoria’s lead and make industrial manslaughter an offence in that state

AMMA reported last year WA’s push to a more nationally harmonised WHS legislation, however, specific regulations for the resources industry will allow employers to continue traditional a risk-based practices for work health and safety in the state.

‘Wage theft’ crackdown

In a further crackdown, the Victorian Government has proposed up to 10 years jail for employers who deliberately underpay or don’t pay their workers.

The Andrews Labor Government has announced it would introduce the new legislation making ‘wage theft’ a criminal offence if re-elected in November this year.

Under the proposed new laws, employers who deliberately withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements, falsify employment records, or fail to keep employment records will face fines of up to $190,284 for individuals, $951,420 for companies and up to 10 years jail.

“The new laws will also make it faster, cheaper and easier for workers to get the money they are owed by their employer through the courts,” the government statement read.

“For claims of up to $50,000, court filing fees will be lowered, claims will be heard within 30 days and court processes will be simplified.”

AMMA’s position, aligned to that of other employer groups, is that the state legislation is unnecessary given federal laws already comprehensively address the issue.

“Underpaying workers is clearly not acceptable. It is however, disappointing to see the emotive and highly-politicised term ‘wages theft’, used heavily in current union campaigns, filter through in Victorian state policy,” Tom Reid, AMMA head of policy and public affairs, said.

AMMA invites members to provide feedback on the proposed changes at [email protected]