A new report has found that one in five Queensland workers are victims of wage theft.
The findings come just days before a parliamentary committee looking into the problem of wage theft in the state will hand down its recommendations.
The new research, by the McKell Institute, found at least 437,000 Queenslanders, or 18 percent of the workforce, has not been paid their full wages and entitlements.
The report concludes that if the workers earn the median wage of $55,800, that equates to a whopping total of $1.8 billion in lost earnings.
One in five Queensland workers victims of wage theft
McKell says 580,150 of the state’s workers, or 23 percent of the workforce, have not been paid their full superannuation, or any superannuation at all.
This shortfall is estimated at $1.1 billion a year.
The average unpaid super of $1,1915 for a worker compounds to $4,000 over ten years.
As a result, they will be short changed up to $70,000 by the time they retire.
“Make no mistake, employers who fail to pay superannuation are stealing from their employee’s retirement,” said Miles Heffernan from IR Claims.
Mr Heffernan and four clients gave evidence at the wage theft inquiry.
The committee’s report and recommendations will be released on Friday 16 November.
“The latest wage theft figures are not surprising,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Our firm receives up to 80 calls a week from people desperate for help to recover their stolen wages and entitlements.
“Wage theft is a business model in some industries, which is why we need governments to to take drastic action.
“We need criminal penalties for greedy bosses, and we need an easier system for workers to recover their wages.”
Wage theft prevalent in many industries
The McKell Institute found wage theft is most prevalent in particular industries.
- fast food;
- convenience stores;
- petrol stations;
- apprenticeships; and also
- fruit & vegetable picking.
The reasons given include employees not knowing their workplace rights, the rising level of insecure work, and a lack of unionisation in those industries.
The most vulnerable to exploitation by rogue employers include young people, overseas workers and those with a disability.
Types of wage theft
The report found wage theft is happening in a number of different ways.
For example, not paying staff proper award wages, not allowing meal breaks and pressuring workers to not claim overtime.
“Wage theft is a scourge on the Australian workforce,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Not only does it impact on vulnerable workers who struggle to make ends meet, but it also gives dodgy businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors.”
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