WAGE THEFT TO BECOME A CRIME IN VICTORIA
Wage theft has now become a crime under Victorian law, with fines of up to $1 million for businesses and 10 years gaol for employers with a new Victorian Wage Inspectorate overseeing the role-out of the new laws.
The laws will begin in mid -2021 to give employers time to prepare.
In recent years it has become apparent that a number of franchises including 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Coles, high profile restaurants and farms have all demonstrated a non-compliance with labour laws, underpaying thousands of workers every year. A report by professional services firm PwC has estimated the loss of income to workers as high as $1.35 billion per year.
The new Victorian Wage Inspectorate has been established with strong powers including rights to enter premises, gather evidence and execute search warrants, targeting employers who falsify wage records or hide wage underpayments.
Campaigners, led by Felicity Sowerbutts, have been praised for the role they played in highlighting the inequities between hours worked and wages actually paid to many employees.
The Federal Government is also preparing new laws covering this area. These will not be as draconian as the Victorian laws. They will not include gaol terms but will reward a self-reporting regime instead, if employers cooperate with investigations, with repayments an acceptable alterative
Christian Porter, Attorney-General, is concerned that Federal laws will clash with the new Victorian laws, and in fact there will be a duplication which will cause confusion with employers. Porter is also concerned that the Victorian laws could be unconstitutional as the Federal government is preparing its own laws criminalising wage theft. Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari has predicted that workers lives ‘will be forever improved’.
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