The deliberate underpayment of wages is now a crime in Queensland, with landmark laws passing in State Parliament today.
People found to be stealing from their workers could face up to 10 years in jail under the new laws.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the Palaszczuk Government was committed to protecting the rights of workers across Queensland.
“Wage theft affects one in four Queensland workers,” Ms Grace said.
“And it takes $2.2 billion dollars out of Queensland workers’ pockets each year in unpaid wages and superannuation.
“Far too often and for far too long, the stories of wage theft and underpayment have continued unabated.”
It will also now be easier and quicker to recoup unpaid wages.
It follows a parliamentary enquiry that investigated the impact of wage theft on Queensland workers.
It found more than $1.2 billion is siphoned out of Queensland workers’ pay packets each year in unpaid or underpaid wages, and around $1.1 billion in superannuation underpayment.
One in four Queenslanders are missing out on part of their wage and that number could be higher as businesses struggle through the coronavirus pandemic.
“The inquiry heard from workers and employers who agreed that more needed to be done to address this issue.” Ms Grace said.
Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Jarrod Bleijie welcomed the move but said Labor needed to focus more on creating jobs.
“The LNP supports workers being paid for the work they do, no one wants to see workers and families being ripped off.
“The biggest thing the Palaszczuk Labor Government can do to protect the wages of workers is to create jobs.
“With the worst unemployment rate in the nation and the longest unemployment queue in Queensland’s history, it’s clear that Labor’s not working.”
Earlier this year Coles, Target, Bunnings and Woolworths confessed to underpaying staff millions of dollars after auditing their own pay records.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland’s Advocacy and Policy General Manager Amanda Rohan, said the bill will further complicate industrial relations laws.
“It’s disappointing to see the wage theft legislation passed and we believe it will add additional stress and burden to small business who largely do the right thing.
“The government should be looking at ways to educate and inform employers and employees of their obligations. There is insufficient evidence that warrants criminalisation as a deterrent.”