New legislation to make wage theft a criminal offence is to be introduced along with a small claims process to support the 437,000 Queenslanders being under-paid each year.
Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace said amendments to the State Criminal Code would tackle wage theft head-on.
“Our wage theft inquiry found that almost one in four Queensland workers is not receiving the pay they are entitled to,” Ms Grace said.
“Wage theft is taking around $1.2 billion out of workers’ wages each year and more than $1 billion from workers’ superannuation.”
Ms Grace said employers who committed wage theft would be liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years for stealing or 14 years for fraud under the changes.
“The Criminal Code as it currently stands comes down very hard on workers caught with their hands in the till, but there’s no offence for unscrupulous bosses who intentionally steal from their employees or defraud them,” Ms Grace said.
“These amendments will rectify that inequity and send a strong message to employers that wage theft is not acceptable — it is a crime”.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Yvette D’Ath said a new streamlined small claims process would be introduced to further support the legislative changes.
“For workers, their first and main priority is to get back what is owed to them,” Ms D’Ath said.
“Almost half of workers who experience wage theft don’t try to recover the monies owed to them because the process is complex and time-consuming.”
She said once the new system was in place, wage recovery processes would be simpler and more user-friendly.