Wage theft criminalised in Queensland

Queensland employers found to be deliberately stealing from their workers now face jail time under new state laws.

Queensland employers found to be deliberately stealing from their workers will now face jail time under new state laws passed on Wednesday.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said wage theft affects one in four Queensland workers and takes $2.2 billion out of workers’ pockets each year in unpaid wages and superannuation.

Under the new laws, the maximum penalty for stealing by an employer will be the same as the current maximum penalty for ‘stealing as a clerk or servant’, which is 10 years’ imprisonment. It will also now be easier and quicker to recoup unpaid wages.

“These new laws recognise that the current framework is not doing the job – something needs to change to stop rampant wage theft,” Grace said.

“Stronger penalty and deterrence measures are needed for those who commit wage theft, particularly where it is deliberate and systematic and part of an employer’s business model.”

The new laws were borne out of a parliamentary inquiry which investigated the prevalence and impact of wage theft on Queensland workers.

United Workers Union – the union for workers in industries rife with wage theft, such as hospitality, security, cleaning, food production and more – welcomed the laws passing after years of campaigning by members.

United Workers Union Queensland Secretary Gary Bullock said the state’s union members had led the fight against wage theft and the need for tough new laws.

“These laws restore the balance for workers, ensuring they will get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” Bullock said.

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