New laws making wage theft a crime will be introduced to Queensland parliament before the October election.
The proposed laws, suggested by unions and Industrial Relations Claims, will see employers who deliberately underpay workers jailed.
New laws making wage theft a crime
Despite only two three-day sitting sessions scheduled before the Queensland election, the government is determined to introduce the wage theft legislation.
Under changes to the Criminal Code, employers guilty of deliberate or reckless wage theft will face up to 10-years prison, or 14-years for fraud.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace says wage theft costs Queensland workers $1.2 billion each year, in addition to $1 billion in superannuation.
IR Claims calls for change
In late 2018, Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at IR Claims, presented a detailed submission to the Queensland Wage Theft Inquiry.
His 19 recommendations included a plan to criminalise wage theft.
“Currently, if a worker steals from their employer, they face 10-years in prison,” Mr Heffernan said.
“So therefore, it is only fair and just that employers who steal from workers face the same penalty.
“The reason wage theft has run rampant in many industries is because penalties have been woefully inadequate.”
Federal government dragging its feet
Mr Heffernan welcomed the state government’s move to pass the new legislation before the election.
“These laws are long overdue, and with the federal government continuing to delay and drag its feet, I applaud the initiative of the Minister and the Queensland government,” he said.
Recently, the Victorian government became the first to introduce criminal penalties for wage theft.
The federal government pledged to introduce its own reforms earlier this year following an ever-increasing number of wage theft scandals.
For example, Coles, Woolworths, 7-Eleven, Bunnings, the ABC, and celebrity chefs including Neil Perry and George Calombaris.
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