Wage Theft

Wage theft soon to be a criminal offence

11 March, 2020 –

Queensland workers expect a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The deliberate theft of worker’s legal entitlements not only hurts workers and their families, but the broader economy and those businesses doing the right thing.

The Palaszczuk Government is introducing legislation to make wage theft a criminal offence.

Our inquiry found that wage theft is widespread and, in many cases, part of a deliberate business model. Key impacts include:

  • Up to 437,000 Queensland workers likely to have been affected by wage theft – nearly one in four Queensland workers (17%)
  • 580,000 Queensland workers (23%) are likely to have unpaid super
  • Total lost wages up to $1.2 billion annually
  • Underpayment of super estimated at $1.1 billion
  • Estimated $100 million annual reduction in consumer spending
  • Estimated $60 million in foregone GST revenue that could have funded hundreds of extra teachers, nurses and doctors.

Altogether, wage theft strips almost $2.5 billion from the Queensland economy each year.

Good employers acknowledge that wage theft is happening and are concerned about the impact it has on law abiding businesses.

Wage recovery processes for workers to get back money owed to them should be simple, quick and low-cost – they are not at the moment.

There is a strong case for criminalising wage theft and broad support.

The changes proposed will rectify the current imbalance in the law – currently under the Criminal Code, it is an aggravated offence for an employee (servant) who steals from their employer but there is no corresponding offence for an employer who effectively ‘steals’ from their workers.

This will send a strong message to the community that wage theft is not acceptable – it is a crime.