New laws to crack down on wage theft

Employers who deliberately underpay or don’t pay their workers will face up to 10 years jail under new laws introduced into parliament by the Victorian Government.

The Wage Theft Bill 2020 will establish new criminal offences targeting employers who deliberately withhold wages and other employee entitlements.

Employers who dishonestly withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements, will face fines of up to $198,264 for individuals, $991,320 for companies and up to 10 years jail.

Offences will also capture employers who dishonestly falsify employee entitlement records, such as payroll records, or who dishonestly fail to keep employment records.

The new record keeping offences are aimed at employers who attempt to conceal wage theft by falsifying or failing to keep records. They ensure employers will not be able to avoid being held accountable through dishonest record keeping practices.

The legislation will establish the Wage Inspectorate of Victoria as a statutory authority with powers to investigate and prosecute wage theft offences.

Employers who make honest mistakes or who exercise due diligence in paying wages and employee entitlements will not be guilty of wage theft offences under these laws.

In 2019 the Victorian Government held a series of forums to give victims an opportunity to tell their stories and have their say on the reforms. Victims highlighted that recovery of their entitlements was of the utmost importance.

The Government will also make it faster, cheaper and easier for employees to recover the money they are owed through the Magistrates’ Court as part of reforms to be introduced in the future.

Source: Vic Government