Under the new Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020 (Bill), which was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 9 September 2020, employers that engage in deliberate wage theft face jail terms of up to 10 years or 14 years when fraud is involved. The Bill was introduced to ensure that wage recovery processes for Queensland workers are simple, quick and low-cost. The effect of the Bill is that it amends the Queensland Criminal Code definition of stealing so as to provide an offence against an employer who intentionally fails to make payment of wages or entitlements when it becomes payable to their employee.

How does wage theft occur?

Wage theft can take various forms. These include underpayment of wages and having entitlements such as leave and penalty rates withheld. It also includes an employer not making required superannuation contributions on an employee’s behalf.

Unpaid wages may occur due to a range of factors, including but not limited to:

  1. paying the incorrect hourly rates of pay;
  2. not paying penalty rates for overtime hours and weekend or public holiday work;
  3. paying cash in hand;
  4. requiring prospective employees to work unpaid trial or ‘test’ shifts;
  5. expecting employees to work through their breaks or to attend work early or stay after closing time to close up;
  6. requiring employees to spend their own money on costs that are the cost of running a business; and
  7. not paying employees for attending training or even doing online training, or for attending staff meetings.

Further, deductions from wages or requiring that employees pay back money out of their wages will in most cases not be legal.

Take home message

Employers must ensure that they are not engaging in wage theft, which may include making deductions that are unlawful. If employers are found to be guilty of wage theft, there is a real risk that the employer will face a jail term of up to 10 years under this new legislation.

Prior to making any deductions, contact CTI Lawyers to ensure that any deductions the employer proposes to make are legal. CTI Lawyers can carry out wage audits to ensure that employers are not engaging in wage theft so as to avoid contraventions under the Bill.

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For more information on legislative or contractual obligations, call CTI Lawyers on 02 9021 9699 or email [email protected]

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