Bosses who rip off workers to face jail under new laws

By Jeff Salton on March 7th, 2018
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Fair Work Act


Employers who knowingly and deliberately rip off their workers by underpaying and exploiting them will face imprisonment for up to 15 years under laws to be introduced in South Australia, says Premier Jay Weatherill if his government is re-elected on 17 March.

The changes to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act will create a new offence of wage theft.

The new offence will apply to employers who knowingly, recklessly or repeatedly underpay their workers, including by failing to pay or underpaying their superannuation payments.

“Deliberately underpaying wages and superannuation is theft from working people,” said Premier Weatherill.

“There is growing evidence that many thousands of South Australian workers are being ripped off in this way, including workers who are already vulnerable, especially young people, migrant workers, and those in insecure work.

“Wage theft doesn’t just hurt employees, it enables dishonest businesses to undercut employers who do the right thing,” he added.

High profile offenders

There have been many recent high profile examples of systemic wage theft from the franchisees of companies like 7-Eleven and Caltex.

Last year, the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey found widespread underpayment of wages to temporary migrants in the food and hospitality industries.

Alarmingly, a 2016 report from Industry Super Australia found Australian workers were being short-changed $3.6 billion a year in compulsory superannuation payments.

The government says the new criminal offence is part of a suite of workplace protections introduced into South Australia, including labour hire licensing laws and a new offence of industrial manslaughter.

“Labor will ensure employers who deliberately withhold wages and superannuation from their staff are appropriately punished,” Mr Weatherill said.

The legislation will apply to deliberate underpayment of staff and not to cases of genuine error by employers.

You have been warned

The Wages and Superannuation chapters in the Employment Law Practical Handbook have both just been updated with the latest legal information so you have no real excuse for not knowing what your workers are entitled to.

Ensure you are getting it right by checking against the information in these chapters. Don’t rely on what you think is right or what others in industry may have told you.

It’s a tiny investment compared to the financial penalties being handed out by courts after successful prosecutions by the Fair Work Ombudsman and regulators.

Subscribe today and have available all the other 70-plus chapters that cover the A-Z of employment law. You’ll never know when you’ll them.


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