A Bill to criminalise wage theft has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament.

It follows Victoria last month becoming the first state in the country to pass laws establishing criminal penalties for employers who deliberately underpay or don’t pay their workers.

The new legislation will also create a wage recovery process for Queenslanders who suffer underpayment of their wages.

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Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said 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.

A new streamlined small claims process will be set up to support Queenslanders who are underpaid by their employer.

This process will include Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioners conducting conciliation prior to a Court hearing.

The reforms address the findings of the 2018 parliamentary inquiry into wage theft in Queensland which found the practice is endemic across the state.

Find out more here.

AMMA’s position

AMMA position on underpayment penalties, aligned to that of the broader business community, is that introducing criminal sanctions into the industrial relations system is far from ideal.

It is clear from the large numbers of employers that self report underpayment of wages that a significant proportion of non-compliance is driven by Australia’s employment laws being unnecessarily complex, in particular the industrial awards system.

AMMA’s future vision for industrial relations in Australia, as detailed in A New Horizon: Guiding Principles for the Future of Work  includes a significantly simplified safety net that abolishes the awards system in favour of universal minimum standards of employment and adequate protections for those who may be in need.

Compliance and enforcement issues, including the possibility for criminalising serious underpayments in federal legislation, is one of five areas of Australia’s industrial relations system being closely examined by a series of Australian Government-led working groups. AMMA members are being represented in this discussion group by the Australian Chamber, of which AMMA is an association member and CEO Steve Knott is a Board Director.

Join AMMA’s blitz on compliance

Underpayments and non-compliance with Modern Awards and enterprise agreements can have huge implications for employers. With new headlines of underpayments appearing on a seemingly daily basis, AMMA’s members are determined not to join the growing list of companies and sectors to have made compliance mistakes.

AMMA’s specialist workplace consultants are on a compliance blitz and available to provide support and assistance. Some of our key compliance activities and support include:

  • Payroll process audits to ensure full compliance with the new annualised salary administrative rules
  • Roster Compliance training to provide the skills to create and calculate rosters that comply with the NES and requirements under Modern Awards and enterprise agreements
  • Advice on the risks, exposure and obligations of landmark determinations on personal leave and casual entitlements

Contact AMMA’s specialist workplace consulting team today to join our compliance blitz.