Attorney-General Christian Porter is preparing to put his promised wage theft Bill to cabinet in the coming weeks.
Despite receiving submissions from unions and employer groups opposing criminal sanctions for serious underpayment cases, he remains committed to criminal penalties for serious offending or repeat offending where there is clear evidence of criminal behaviour. Proposals currently include 10-year jail terms or a $1.05 million fine, or both, for individuals; and $5.25 million fines for companies. Criminal penalties for accidental underpayment will not apply under the Bill.
Mr Porter has warned that responsibility for wage theft is not targeted enough at company directors. He said that rather than investing large amounts of money on marketing and sponsorships, they should be turning their attention to their payroll systems, ensuring best practice so that employees are paid correctly. He has also warned those claiming they have mistakenly underpaid staff would need to provide preventative evidence.
Small and family businesses will receive some assistance, feedback provided from these businesses found they struggled to understand the award system. Mr Porter is reviewing the issue and will engage with the Fair Work Ombudsman to further assist smaller employers. Large scale changes to the system would be unlikely given the complexity of the current award system.
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