A senate committee released on 30 March a 182-page report on what it calls ‘shameful’ underpayment.
Systemic, Sustained and Shameful Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration makes 19 recommendations, including to criminalise Australian wage theft.
Key recommendations are:
- Prioritise amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 to criminalise wage theft in Australia.
- Amend the act to increase civil penalties for wage theft, make it an offence for employers to advertise employment with a rate of pay less than the national minimum wage, and list parties and individuals that take part in wage theft, including those that knowingly or recklessly create a wage-theft environment (including franchisors, advisors, head contractors and other third-party participants in supply chains), and
- Improve protection for employees who engage in lawful activity to prevent wage theft, including joining a union, pursuing underpayments through established processes, publicly speaking out against poor workplace practices, exercising workplace rights, and engaging in industrial activity.
The committee also recommended that the Australian Securities & Investments Commission improve enforcement action and enhance director disqualifications from managing a company where companies use superannuation guarantee payments and wages owed to trade while otherwise insolvent.