New Government Tough on Wage Theft + Super
Two of the newly elected Labor Governments’ platforms are to make “wage theft” a criminal offence, and increase an individual employees right to chase their superannuation. Now the new government has been formed, we expect these promises to become law in the near future. We see these policies as an indicator of where the Labor Government will stand on Industrial Relations matters, being firmly on the side of the employee.
What is Wage Theft?
Wage Theft is when your employer fails to pay you the minimum amount in cash, allowances or entitlements that are set out in the agreement or award that you work under.
Wage Theft can take several forms, including:
- paying hourly rates below the national minimum wage;
- not paying overtime and penalties;
- making unlawful deductions from wages for things like breakages & accommodation;
- paying cash-in hand;
- and failing to pay superannuation.
The highest profile case recently was a 7-Eleven franchise seven years ago. They were ordered to repay $173 million in underpaid wages to more than 4,000 victims.
Unifying the Approach
Wage Theft is already a criminal offence in Queensland and Victoria. Employers found guilty can face up to 10 years in gaol. Courts can also order prepayment of unpaid wages and entitlements with interest, and impose additional financial penalties. The Labor policy is to make Wage Theft a crime in all states. It won’t necessarily follow the same approach as Queensland and Victoria, but those models are a good indication of what a national model will look like.
The Government also pledged to legislate to include a right to superannuation within the National Employment Standards (NES), which will mean Australian workers have the power to pursue unpaid superannuation as a workplace entitlement. Individual employees currently have to go through the ATO under the superannuation guarantee charge. The proposed policy will enable the Fair Work Ombudsman and other parties to pursue claims when workers have not received their agreed superannuation entitlements.
If you have a client that is struggling to pay wages, entitlements or superannuation, get them to give us a call for free advice on their options.