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Wage Theft Bill 2020

Introduction

In May 2018, the Victorian Government committed to introduce new laws to make wage theft a criminal offence. Premier Daniel Andrews stated in a media release: 'Employers who deliberately underpay or don't pay their workers will face up to 10 years jail under new laws to be introduced by a re-elected Andrews Labor Government'.[footnote 1]

In July 2018, a Legislative Assembly Select Committee Inquiry into penalty rates and fair pay recommended in its final report that the Victorian Government introduce legislation 'to create a new criminal offence, with the option of a custodial sentence, for dishonestly underpaying wages or entitlements'.[footnote 2] In its response to the report, the Andrews Government reaffirmed its intention to make wage theft a crime and to create an Inspectorate with powers to enforce the new laws.[footnote 3]

The Wage Theft Bill 2020 ('the Bill') was subsequently introduced and read for a first time on 18 March 2020. The Bill is significant in that it seeks to shift wage underpayment from a civil to a criminal matter and demonstrates Victoria's renewed legislative interest in labour law.

This Bill Brief provides an overview of the Wage Theft Bill 2020. First, it provides some background on the current legislative framework, looks at wage theft definitions, explains why it's being discussed and considers the recent changes proposed by the federal government.

The Brief then looks at the Bill itself, including the Victorian Government's consultation process leading up to the Bill's introduction, the Attorney-General's second reading speech and then discusses what the Bill seeks to do. Additionally, the Brief considers responses to the Bill by various stakeholder groups and concludes with a comparison of the current situation in other jurisdictions.

Please note, this Brief is not intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of the issue, nor does it cover every aspect of the Bill.

Background

What is the current legislative framework?

In Australia, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth; 'the Act') is the principal legislation that deals with workplace relations. Section 4 of the Act explains that it:

§ provides for terms and conditions of employment;

§ sets out rights and responsibilities of employees, employers and organisations in relation to that employment;

§ provides for compliance with, and enforcement of, the Act; and

§ provides for the Act's administration by establishing the Fair Work Commission and the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.[footnote 4]

Prior to the Act's implementation, workplace laws were set and administered by most individual states.[footnote 5] In order for employment and industrial relations to be regulated nationally, the states must refer these powers to the Commonwealth.[footnote 6] The Fair Work Act made this possible, allowing states to refer matters to the federal government to form a national workplace relations system.[footnote 7] In Victoria, the way in which these powers are referred is set out in the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Vic).[footnote 8]

The Act introduced the Fair Work System, the national workplace relations system that provides for the minimum employment laws in Australia.[footnote 9] According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), the key features of the Fair Work System include:

§ ten minimum National Employment Standards;

§ awards that apply nationally for specific industries and occupations;

§ the national minimum wage; and

§ protection from unfair dismissal.[footnote 10]

The Fair Work System covers most Australian workplaces. In Victoria, all employees are covered by the national system, with the exception of state government employees working in sectors that provide essential services for core government functions (for example, state infrastructure services such as electricity and gas).[footnote 11] Some state government employees are covered under registered agreements that state government employers have made in the national system.[footnote 12]

The Act requires employers to pay employees according to their statutory entitlements and prohibits employers from breaching the national employment standards, a modern award, an enterprise agreement or the national minimum wage order.[footnote 13] To ensure this is the case, the Act makes use of a civil penalty regime. Compliance with the laws is regulated primarily by the FWO, which may pursue compliance and enforcement outcomes through a range of actions—including through the courts, which have a range of civil penalties available to them to promote compliance with the Act.[footnote 14] The FWO's enforcement approach is documented in its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.[footnote 15]

While the Act does contain a small number of criminal offences, the Attorney-General's Department explains that these 'are limited to matters such as contempt of court, and provisions which make it an offence to give, receive or solicit a corrupting benefit (for example, a bribe)'.[footnote 16]

What is wage theft?

Investigative journalists Adele Ferguson and Ben Schneiders, who helped to bring this issue to the nation's attention, define 'wage theft' as:

the practice of paying workers less than they are entitled to under Australia's workplace relations system. Its various forms include underpaying wages, penalty rates, superannuation, overtime, commissions and entitlements such as sick, annual or carers leave; or requiring workers to repay money earned or making unauthorised deductions from employee pay.[footnote 17]

Importantly, they note, wage theft is distinct from other problems that are associated with the sector—namely the gig economy, casual and insecure work, and the reduction of penalty rates—as wage theft involves unlawful activity.[footnote 18]

Governments in Australia presently use several different working definitions of wage theft. The Victorian Government defines wage theft as 'the dishonest underpayment or non-payment of employee entitlements, and includes not paying what is owed, or failing to record and accrue leave entitlements'.[footnote 19] In Queensland—another jurisdiction that has looked at wage theft in recent times—the Office of Industrial Relations provides a similar definition, and states that wage theft 'can take various forms such as underpayment of wages, having entitlements such as leave and penalty rates withheld, and an employer not making required superannuation contributions on an employee's behalf'.[footnote 20] In Western Australia, the government has defined wage theft as 'the systematic and deliberate underpayment of wages and entitlements to a worker'.[footnote 21]

There is currently no legal definition of wage theft in Australia.[footnote 22] Other terms such as 'exploitation' or 'underpayment' have been used to categorise this behaviour—for example, the federal government used 'wage theft' in a media release in September 2019,[footnote 23] while a release in February 2020 described 'deliberate worker exploitation and wage underpayments'.[footnote 24] In a 2017 Senate committee report into corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act, a chapter, entitled 'wage theft', referred to 'underpayment of vulnerable workers'.[footnote 25]

Though the federal government acknowledges that the term 'wage theft' has been used as an umbrella term to describe various kinds of underpayment, it makes a clear distinction between employers who have made genuine mistakes, and those employers who deliberately underpay, or otherwise exploit, employees.[footnote 26]

Why are we talking about it?

Wage theft has received considerable media coverage in Australia in the last few years, following several high-profile cases.

The issue came to national prominence through a joint investigation in 2015 of the 7-Eleven franchise by ABC's Four Corners program and Fairfax Media, which revealed dishonest bookkeeping, blackmail and mass underpayment of the convenience stores' workforce.[footnote 27] Ferguson called it 'the first big corporate scandal to expose the depth of underpayment' in the country, and one which 'caused national outrage and put the issue on the agenda'.[footnote 28]

Since the 2015 Four Corners investigation, numerous underpayment cases have been revealed, including at Domino's, Caltex, Bunnings, Super Retail Group, Grill'd and Spotless catering.[footnote 29] Some of the most recent high-profile cases include:

§ MAdE Establishment group (headed by celebrity chef, George Calombaris) that, following self-reporting and a four-year investigation by the FWO, was found to have underpaid 515 current and former employees a total of $7.83 million;[footnote 30]

§ Rockpool Dining Group, which in a complaint lodged at the FWO was accused of underpaying staff at least $10 million;[footnote 31]

§ Coles, which revealed it had underpaid about 600 staff some $20 million over six years;[footnote 32]

§ Wesfarmers, which reported staff underpayments totalling $30.1 million across its companies, including a $9 million underpayment of staff at Target;[footnote 33]

§ Qantas, which disclosed the underpayment of 638 employees over eight years, totalling $7.1 million;[footnote 34]

§ Commonwealth Bank, which revealed staff underpayments totalling some $53 million, affecting 41,000 current and former staff and dating back to 2010;[footnote 35] and

§ Woolworths Group, which found after an internal review that approximately 5,700 salaried staff had been underpaid between $200–300 million over nine years,[footnote 36] although recent reports indicate repayments may reach up to $400 million.[footnote 37]

In 2018, the FWO began a nationwide audit of 1,217 businesses across hospitality, domestic construction, retail, manufacturing and administration services.[footnote 38] According to a FWO media release, the audit was established 'after data consistently showed many businesses were failing the 'basics' of workplace law compliance: paying staff their correct rates, providing proper payslips, and keeping proper employment records'.[footnote 39] The FWO reported in 2020 that the audit had recovered $1.3 million for underpaid employees and that hospitality was found to be the least compliant industry.[footnote 40] FWO audits of sushi businesses in 2018 also found that 87 per cent were not compliant with workplace laws and that false records were common. A sushi chain was subsequently fined a record sum of $891,000 for deliberate staff underpayment and for its attempts to conceal having done so.[footnote 41]

In March 2020, the FWO told a Senate Economics References Committee inquiry that there had been more than 40 self-disclosures of non-compliance made by large corporations during the twelve months prior, with numerous non-compliance cases involving hundreds or thousands of employees for periods of up to ten years.[footnote 42]

Underpayment is not limited to the private sector. In recent years, the ABC has been forced to set aside $23 million to address the underpayment of up to 2,500 casual staff over a six-year period,[footnote 43] while the Victorian Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services,[footnote 44] the National Gallery of Victoria,[footnote 45] and the state's public hospitals have also been questioned in relation to underpayment.[footnote 46] Organisations in the not-for-profit sector have also been implicated. In 2019, World Vision Australia admitted to underpaying around 250 staff $8.9 million and, in 2018, the Australian Red Cross was also found to have underpaid staff $20 million.[footnote 47] The National Tertiary Education Union has also drawn attention to employee underpayment in the tertiary education sector.[footnote 48]

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have argued that, ultimately, wage theft has become a culturally accepted part of business, stating that:

Wage theft seems to have become accepted as a fact of life, maybe even a necessity, in certain sectors and workplaces. As a result, employers have developed a sense of impunity, while workers have become resigned to underpayment as unavoidable.[footnote 49]

This sentiment is echoed in findings by researchers at the University of Queensland in their ongoing study into mental health and wellbeing in the hospitality industry. They have found that 'worker exploitation is institutionalised', that wage theft is 'rife' and that most staff 'know they are being paid less than what they are entitled to but accept it as "the norm"'.[footnote 50]

What action has the federal government taken?

Given that the industrial relations framework in Australia is mostly legislated at the national level, have there been any actions taken to address wage theft? The federal government recently flagged its intention to address the issue and has commenced work on drafting legislation. In 2019, the Attorney-General's Department stated:

The Government considers it unacceptable that there is a persistence of underpayment and exploitation behaviours by a small number of employers and considers there to now be a strong case that the current penalty, compliance, and enforcement framework for breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act), established over a decade ago now, needs to be improved.[footnote 51]

Discussion papers

In September 2019, federal Attorney-General, the Hon. Christian Porter released a discussion paper and invited submissions on the topic of wage theft criminalisation, explaining that 'community feedback is being sought to help inform the development of a new offence and penalty regime, which must include significant jail terms and fines for the most serious offences'.[footnote 52] The discussion paper, entitled Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, focused on the adequacy of the existing penalty framework and considered what the introduction of criminal sanctions for the most serious forms of exploitative workplace conduct might look like.[footnote 53] Proposed reforms included possible ten-year jail terms or $1.05 million fines (or both) for individuals and $5.25 million fines for a body corporate.[footnote 54] The paper also made clear that criminal sanctions should be reserved for the most serious examples of underpayment and misconduct, and are not intended to capture employers who have made 'genuine mistakes'.[footnote 55] The consultation period closed in October 2019 and submissions can be viewed at the Attorney-General's Department website.[footnote 56]

In February 2020, the Attorney-General flagged that legislation would be introduced in the coming weeks seeking to criminalise 'the most serious forms of deliberate worker exploitation and wage underpayments',[footnote 57] though this has not yet occurred. An additional discussion paper, entitled Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: further strengthening the civil compliance and enforcement framework, was also released at that time.[footnote 58] In contrast to the first paper, which looked at the existing framework and potential criminal sanctions, the second paper sought written submissions regarding the adequacy of compliance and enforcement tools available to workplace regulators and the courts, as well as mechanisms to recover unpaid wages.[footnote 59] In terms of compliance and enforcement tools, the paper put forward a range of orders for consideration, including adverse publicity orders, banning orders and director disqualification orders.[footnote 60] For addressing unpaid wage recovery, it suggested changes to court rules and procedures, as well as to the small claims process.[footnote 61] The closing date for submissions was due to be 3 April 2020; however, the consultation process is currently paused due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[footnote 62]

Senate inquiry

On 13 November 2019, an inquiry was referred to the Senate Economics References Committee, which was tasked with looking into 'the causes, extent and effects of unlawful non-payment or underpayment of employees' remuneration by employers and measures that can be taken to address the issue'.[footnote 63] The Terms of Reference asked that the forms of and reasons for wage theft be considered, as well as any changes to the existing legislative framework that may deter wage theft.[footnote 64] The Committee was due to report in June 2020; however, an extension has been granted until December 2020.[footnote 65] Submissions closed on 6 March 2020 and are available at the Committee's website.[footnote 66]

The Bill

The Andrews Government first flagged its intention to criminalise wage theft in May 2018 and made it an election commitment.[footnote 67]

Forums

In August 2019, the Government revealed that a series of wage theft forums would be held across Victoria. Victims of wage theft were invited to come forward to share their stories and provide feedback on potential reforms.[footnote 68] The first forum took place in Northcote and the Government said it would also be consulting various employer groups and unions during the process to 'ensure the new laws are fair'.[footnote 69]

Consultation paper

In February 2020, the Government released a consultation paper on its Wage Theft Bill 2020, detailing the proposed legislation and its intended purpose: to create three wage theft offences and to establish the Wage Inspectorate Victoria.[footnote 70] The consultation paper explored the proposed Bill's scope, discussed key concepts, detailed intended offences and looked at enforcement models.[footnote 71]

In comparison to the federal government's discussions, the Victorian consultation paper made clear that the new legislation is not aimed at those who make administrative errors or genuine mistakes; rather, it is aimed at 'criminalising behaviour that is dishonest and intended to deprive people of their entitlements'.[footnote 72]

Community feedback on the proposed Bill was invited between 23 February and 9 March 2020.[footnote 73] The Victorian Government stated that it had heard from employer representatives, victims of wage theft and unions.[footnote 74]

Second reading speech

The Wage Theft Bill 2020 was introduced and first read in the Legislative Assembly by the state's Attorney-General, the Hon. Jill Hennessy, on 18 March 2020. The second reading speech, given on 19 March, stated that:

This Bill will deliver on the Victorian Government's commitment to introduce criminal offences to target wage theft, to ensure that Victorian workers receive what they are lawfully entitled to–a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.[footnote 75]

The Attorney-General referred to the high-profile cases in the second reading as instances where the current federal civil penalty regime was not strong enough to deter those who would commit wage theft.

Ms Hennessy argued:

This Bill sends a strong message to employers that stealing the lawful entitlements of your employees will not be tolerated and significant penalties, including jail terms, can be imposed on those who do. This Bill makes it clear that theft is theft, and that just because it was committed by an employer does not make it any less of a crime.[footnote 76]

What the Bill seeks to do

The Bill's key objective is 'to hold employers who withhold employee entitlements dishonestly to account and protect vulnerable employees from exploitation'.[footnote 77] As explored through the Consultation Paper process and highlighted in the second reading speech, the Bill addresses this by introducing three new offences and establishing the Wage Inspectorate Victoria.

New criminal offences

The first offence the Bill introduces relates specifically to wage theft. Clause 6, 'Dishonest withholding of employee entitlements', states that an employer, or an officer of the employer, must not dishonestly withhold the whole or part of an entitlement that is owed to an employee, nor allow another person to do so on the employer's behalf.[footnote 78]

Two further offences relate to record keeping. The first, Clause 7, relates to the falsification of an employee entitlement record. It states that an employer or an officer of the employer—or another person acting on their behalf—must not falsify an employee entitlement record with a view to dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage for the employer or another person, or preventing the exposure of a financial advantage.[footnote 79] The second, Clause 8, relates to the failure to keep an employee entitlement record. It states that an employer or an officer of the employer—or another person acting on their behalf—must not fail to keep an employee entitlement record with a view to dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage for the employer or another person, or preventing the exposure of a financial advantage.[footnote 80]

For the three offences described above, the penalty in the case of a body corporate is 6,000 penalty units, which in FY 2019–20 is equivalent to $991,320.[footnote 81] In any other case (i.e. for individuals), the penalty is level 5 imprisonment, equivalent to a maximum of ten years.[footnote 82] Level 5 also attracts a maximum fine of 1,200 penalty units, which is equal to $198,264.[footnote 83] While the length of imprisonment for an individual (a maximum of ten years) is similar to that proposed by the federal government in its discussion paper, the fine in Victoria for an individual, totalling $198,264 (1,200 penalty units), is considerably less than the $1.05 million (5,000 penalty units) proposed by the federal government. So, too, is the disparity between the proposed fines for a body corporate: $991,320 (6,000 penalty units) in Victoria, versus $5.25 million (25,000 penalty units) federally.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria

Clause 19 of the Bill relates to the establishment of the Wage Inspectorate Victoria ('the Inspectorate'), while clause 20 sets out its functions. These include, among others:

§ informing, educating and assisting people in relation to their rights and obligations;

§ promoting, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the proposed Act and its regulations;

§ investigating the commission or possible commission of employee entitlement offences and related matters; and

§ bringing criminal proceedings in relation to alleged employee entitlement offences.[footnote 84]

The Bill puts forward a set of guiding principles for the Inspectorate and provides for the appointment of a Commissioner.[footnote 85] It sets out how the Inspectorate may go about investigating employee entitlement offences and that inspectors can be appointed to do so,[footnote 86] while also detailing the various powers and procedures relating to entry, search and seizure.[footnote 87]

Elsewhere, the Bill makes provision for the production of documents and records, the power to compel attendance at the Inspectorate, and includes enforceable undertakings.[footnote 88] The Bill also provides for general offences relating to the work of inspectors (for example, that they not be intentionally hindered or obstructed in doing their work) and the giving of false or misleading information.[footnote 89]

Additionally, the Bill includes the ability for the Inspectorate to refer matters to the Office of Public Prosecutions, and for regulations to be made under the Act.[footnote 90]

Responses to the Bill

Submissions to the Victorian Government's Wage Theft Bill consultation process were not publicly available at the time of writing.[footnote 91] However, a number of submissions relating to this topic have been made elsewhere by various stakeholders—either in response to the federal government consultation or to other inquiries, and/or have been explored in the media. These submissions are useful in painting a picture of the range of viewpoints that arise from this issue. A selection of these are outlined by theme, below.

Terminology

Australian Industry Group (AIG) chief executive, Innes Willox, disagreed with the nature of the language used in the debate. In response to the discussion papers released by the federal Attorney-General's Department, Willox stated, 'Anti-business rhetoric has reached fever pitch, risking jobs and investment', and that 'federal and state governments were supporting a divisive agenda by parroting overly emotive union terms such as 'wage theft''.[footnote 92] Similarly, in its submission to a Queensland inquiry, the AIG stated that the term wage theft was 'inappropriate' and that it 'risks inappropriately branding employers who mistakenly underpay their employees as criminals'.[footnote 93]

The Housing Industry Association also questioned use of the phrase, saying in its submission to a Queensland inquiry that the concept 'has been greatly exaggerated by implying that all underpayment of wages is theft'.[footnote 94] The Business Council of Australia (BCA) shared this view, and regarded it as crucial that a distinction be made between intentional action/manipulation and unintentional errors.[footnote 95] The BCA pointed to award complexity, stating that 'most non-compliance by employers is not 'wage theft' but the result of system errors or inadvertent mistakes, many of which are the direct result of the complexity of Australia's workplace relations system'.[footnote 96] This opinion was shared by the Australian Retailers Association, which argued that, in the retail industry, the root cause of underpayments was award complexity rather than criminal intent.[footnote 97] The idea of award complexity has been challenged by Professor of Workplace Law, Anthony Forsyth, who argued that the system is not as complex as employers claim it to be and is not to blame for corporate wage theft.[footnote 98]

However, others including Professor Allan Fels, who chaired the Migrant Workers' Taskforce along with Deputy Chair, Professor David Cousins, have argued that the term 'wage theft' is appropriate in the circumstances. Fels and Cousins considered this issue as part of their investigation, and stated that:

underpayment may be inadvertent, but the outcome is no different as to when it is deliberate. The terms wage exploitation and wage theft are more emotive, but also apt descriptions of the problem, which in essence involves employers not complying with the minimum legal entitlements of their employees.[footnote 99]

Duplication

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated that the proposed Victorian legislation puts the state's business environment at risk due to duplication and the potential for a constitutional challenge. It argued:

The Andrews' Government proposal to introduce Victoria only penalties for failure to comply with Federal workplace relations legislation will damage Victoria's reputation as a great place to do business and risk duplicating soon to be introduced Federal laws.[footnote 100]

This concern was also shared by two researchers at the University of Melbourne's School of Government, Professor John Howe and Melissa Kennedy. In a research paper presented at an Australian Labour Law Association conference, they warned that state laws could face a constitutional challenge due to potential inconsistency with federal laws.[footnote 101]

On the other hand, the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC), in its response to the federal consultation process, did not see any particular challenge posed by duplication and instead argued that 'Commonwealth offences should be confined to strict liability, which would likely not encroach on states' wage theft laws under relevant state criminal codes'.[footnote 102]

Criminality and deterrence

The United Workers Union (UWU)—whose hospitality arm and digital union, Hospo Voice,[footnote 103] has been calling for wage theft to be addressed—welcomed the Victorian Government's move to criminalise wage underpayment. Its National Secretary stated:

Employers who steal from their staff need to be held accountable and our union welcomes today's new proposed laws that will apply to wages, allowances, superannuation and other entitlements such as leave. This is a good win for all the union members who have campaigned against wage theft becoming the 'new normal'.[footnote 104]

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), in its submission to the federal government's discussion paper, also supported criminalising wage underpayment and suggested that employers should face up to five years' jail, or fines of up to $10 million ($2 million for an individual), for the deliberate underpayment of workers.[footnote 105] The ACTU favours a strict liability offence, though it has also asked whether a secondary offence with a far higher penalty (for example, $10 million) may be required for 'conduct that is intentional, reckless or dishonest'.[footnote 106]

However, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned that the criminalisation of breaches of workplace law would set a 'disastrous precedent', whereby criminality could equally apply to workers and unions.[footnote 107] This view is shared by the AIG, which stated that if underpayments were criminalised, this 'would represent a major unnecessary and unwarranted change to the industrial relations system'.[footnote 108]

The National Retail Association, a union of employers in the retail, fast food and quick service industries, stated in its submission to the federal consultation that criminal sanctions should not be inserted into the Fair Work Act, unless those sanctions related only to 'the most egregious forms of deliberate and knowing non-compliance by employers'.[footnote 109] Similarly, the Law Council of Australia (LCA), in its response to the federal discussion paper, advised that criminal sanctions may be suitable in very serious cases, namely where contraventions are repetitive or systematic and the person is aware of it; the LCA also agreed that criminal sanctions could be a valid means of deterrence.[footnote 110] However, it argued that introducing criminal sanctions should not be viewed as the sole way in which underpayment can be addressed, as sanctions alone would not help to alter the vast majority of instances of underpayment.[footnote 111] This view was shared by legal scholar, Tess Hardy, who maintained that harsher civil or criminal penalties would not, on their own, lead to greater compliance.[footnote 112]

The VTHC expressed the view that any government response to wage theft must seek to deter the behaviour and highlighted that whatever model the government adopted should be easy for workers to access.[footnote 113]

Use of resources

While Howe and Kennedy agreed that criminal liability has 'great appeal', civil penalties were seen to be more practical: Kennedy explained, 'the deterrent effects of criminalisation are unlikely to be anywhere near as effective as suggested due to difficulties associated with obtaining convictions and the limited resources that are available to bring prosecutions'.[footnote 114]

Elsewhere, the ACTU has drawn attention to the limited resources that the FWO has at hand to address wage theft, stating that 'there are around 200 FWO inspectors charged with enforcing our workplace laws for more than 12 million workers'.[footnote 115] It has subsequently voiced its support for the creation of a small claims jurisdiction to sit alongside the Fair Work Commission in order to 'provide simple, low-cost, plain language access to justice for workers who have their wages stolen'.[footnote 116]

The Migrant Workers Centre, which has highlighted that migrant workers disproportionately experience wage theft,[footnote 117] instead suggested that a wage theft inspectorate be established and given the power to inspect businesses' employment and payment records, investigate any potential wage theft and press charges.[footnote 118] The VTHC, on the other hand, asked that the funding and powers of the FWO be increased,[footnote 119] while the UWU has argued that the 'most sustainable solution' to address wage theft lies in unions being empowered to investigate, prevent and prosecute.[footnote 120]

Other jurisdictions

A number of other Australian jurisdictions have considered the issue of wage theft in recent times. Some of these are discussed below.

Commonwealth

As mentioned earlier, the federal government has investigated the issue of underpayment of wages, through its discussion papers consultation process and through its Senate inquiry.

The issue was also touched upon by the Senate Education and Employment References Committee. In 2017, the Committee looked into corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and found that 'underpayment of wages is a far bigger problem than isolated non-compliance or inadvertent oversight. In some sectors, such as the hospitality industry and jobs involving workers on temporary visas, wage theft is rampant'.[footnote 121] Then, in November 2018, in its report into the exploitation of general and specialist cleaners working in retail chains for contracting or subcontracting cleaning companies, the Committee recommended that the government 'take immediate steps to protect vulnerable workers subject to wage theft and exploitation by companies who continue to operate with impunity'.[footnote 122]

Elsewhere, the Migrant Workers Taskforce, established in 2016 by the government, looked into a range of issues affecting migrant workers, including underpayment. The final report, published in March 2019, recommended that criminal sanctions be introduced to address wage theft, for 'the most serious forms of exploitative conduct, such as where that conduct is clear, deliberate and systemic'.[footnote 123]

In response to the Taskforce's report, the government stated that it had started drafting legislation to criminalise the underpayment of employees, detailing that:

Adding criminal penalties to the suite of penalties available will provide regulators and the courts with the appropriate tools to address serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act. It sends a strong and unambiguous message to employers that they cannot get away with exploiting vulnerable employees, including by underpaying wages and other entitlements.[footnote 124]

Additionally, the federal government has also committed further funding to the FWO, including $10.8 million for investigations relating to underpayments and for action to deter non-compliance.[footnote 125]

New South Wales

In its submission to the federal government's discussion paper consultation process, the New South Wales Government stated that it 'supports the addition of criminal sanctions to provide regulators and the courts with the appropriate tools to address the most serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act'.[footnote 126]

Based on this reading, the NSW Government does not intend to introduce legislation itself to criminalise wage theft. The government does make clear that it supports the types of sanctions outlined in the federal discussion paper, but argues that they should only apply to 'the most serious and culpable forms of workplace misconduct' and not to employers who have made genuine mistakes.[footnote 127]

Queensland

In May 2017, Queensland's Legislative Assembly referred an inquiry into wage theft to its Education, Employment and Small Business Committee.[footnote 128] The Committee tabled its final report in November 2018 and made a number of recommendations, including that the Queensland Government 'legislate to make wage theft a criminal offence, where the conduct is proven to be deliberate or reckless'.[footnote 129]

The Queensland Government tabled its response to the inquiry in February 2019 and supported the Committee's recommendation regarding criminalising wage theft in-principle and 'subject to further consideration of the constitutional jurisdiction and implementation implications'.[footnote 130] The Minister for Industrial Relations stated that the government had accepted, or accepted in-principle, all of the Committee's 17 recommendations and that it was doing 'everything it could do at a state level' to address wage theft; it also urged the federal government to take action.[footnote 131]

In March 2020, a joint media release from the state's Attorney-General and the Minister for Industrial Relations confirmed that the Queensland Government would be introducing legislation to make wage theft a criminal offence.[footnote 132] The legislation, which was due to be introduced in April 2020 but has not yet appeared, would see employers who commit wage theft liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years for stealing, or 14 years for fraud.[footnote 133]

South Australia

In October 2018, a Select Committee on Wage Theft in South Australia was appointed in the Legislative Council. The Committee's role is to inquire into and report on wage theft in South Australia, with particular reference to: the prevalence and incidence of wage theft in the state, including its impact on the community; the forms it can take, why it is occurring and where it is prevalent; and the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework in the state and federally to address it.[footnote 134]

The Committee's status at the Parliament of South Australia website states that it is currently calling for submissions.[footnote 135]

Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government supports moves to address wage theft; however, it has stated it intends to let the federal government continue to deal with the issue. Tasmanian Attorney-General, Elise Archer, stated that the government 'supports the federal government's intention to bring legislation to the parliament to criminalise the exploitation of workers … particularly in respect of the underpayment of staff wages'.[footnote 136]

The Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations has indicated that the state's Labor party will seek to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2020 into wage theft and insecure work. The Shadow Minister stated, 'There is a need for new wage theft laws to combat systematic, widespread or blatant under and non-payment of wages and other employment benefits'.[footnote 137]

Western Australia

In January 2019, the state's Minister for Industrial Relations announced an Inquiry into wage theft, to be undertaken by the former Chief Commissioner of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission, Tony Beech.[footnote 138] The Inquiry had nine Terms of Reference, covering both the state and national industrial relations systems. It considered whether the current regulatory framework is effective in combating wage theft and if new laws should be introduced in the state to address wage theft—and whether or not it should be criminalised.[footnote 139] The final report was completed in June 2019 and in July, the Minister stated that he would review the inquiry report and provide comment in due course.[footnote 140]

The report was released publicly by the state government, in December 2019.[footnote 141] Its author, Mr Beech, declared that the inquiry had revealed 'underpayment, and systematic and deliberate underpayment, of wages and entitlements occurring particularly in some industry sectors in WA'.[footnote 142] One of the report's recommendations was that, in principle, the state government should consider a criminal sanction for the most serious cases of 'systematic and deliberate underpayment of wages and entitlements'.[footnote 143] The report's author made clear that he believed the unintentional underpayment of wages and entitlements, however, should not attract a criminal sanction.[footnote 144]

The state government tabled its response to the Inquiry on 10 December 2019 and stated that it intended to take action to address wage theft in Western Australia.[footnote 145] In a media release, the Minister for Industrial Relations acknowledged the 28 recommendations made in the inquiry report and said that the government would be 'giving further consideration as to whether wage theft should be criminalised' following consultation with the Commonwealth.[footnote 146]

 

References

Relevant legislation

§ Fair Work Act 2009(Cth)

§ Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 (Vic)

Works cited

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Andrews, D., Premier of Victoria (2018) Dodgy employers to face jail for wage theft, media release, 26 May.

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Australian Council of Trade Unions (2018) FWO report barely scratches the surface of wage theft, media release, 8 November.

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Australian Retailers Association (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee.

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Boersma, M. (2020) 'Wage theft: Employer calls to 'reform' award system are a bare-faced con job', The New Daily, 22 February.

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D'Ath, Y., Attorney-General, & G. Grace, Minister for Industrial Relations (2020) Wage theft. It's a crime, media release, 6 March.

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Ferguson, A. (2019) 'Under the grill', Saturday Age, 7 December.

Ferguson, A. (2020) 'Scourge of wage fraud demands action', The Saturday Age, 22 February.

Forsyth, A. (2019) 'No, a 'complex' system is not to blame for corporate wage theft', The Conversation, 11 November.

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Grace, G., Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) Government supports making wage theft a criminal offence, media release, 15 February.

Hannan, E. (2019) 'Bank underpayment of workers hits $53m', Weekend Australian, 14 December.

Hannan, E. (2020) 'Qantas worker underpay hit $7.1m', The Australian, 14 March.

Hardy, T. (2020) 'Criminal penalties for corporate wage theft are appealing, but won't fix the problem on their own', The Conversation, 20 February.

Hennessy, J., Attorney-General (2019) Victims to have their say on wage theft, media release, 26 August.

Hennessy, J., Attorney-General (2020) 'Second reading speech: Wage Theft Bill 2020', Debates, Victoria, Legislative Assembly, 19 March.

Jenkins, S. (2019) 'Public sector unions lob 'wage theft' allegations at Vic government, ABC', The Mandarin, 21 October.

Johnston, B., Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) Inquiry into wage theft complete, media release, 24 July.

Johnston, B., Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) McGowan Government announces actions to combat wage theft, media release, 6 December.

Johnston, M. (2019) 'Underpaid staff glitch', Herald Sun, 14 October.

Kane, S. & E. Josserand (2019) 'Shocking yet not surprising: wage theft has become a culturally accepted part of business', The Conversation, 31 July.

Karp, P. (2019) 'Wage theft: Coalition says tough new penalties won't apply for 'genuine mistakes'', The Guardian, 19 September.

Law Council of Australia (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Braddon, LCA.

Lynch, L. (2020) 'Qld bosses who underpay staff face 14 years' jail under proposed laws', Brisbane Times, 6 March.

Maloney, M. (2020) 'Tasmanian Labor calls for state inquiry into wage theft', The Examiner, 19 February.

Marin-Guzman, D. (2019) 'Unions push for five years' jail for wage theft', Australian Financial Review, 28 October.

Marin-Guzman, D. (2020) 'Hero Sushi fined $900,000 for wages 'fraud'', Australian Financial Review, 18 May.

Marin-Guzman, D. (2020) 'New crackdown on underpayments', Australian Financial Review, 18 February.

McArthur, G. (2019) 'Docs to watch clock', Herald Sun, 1 August.

McMillan, A. (2018) 'Hospitality workers get online tool', Ballarat Courier, 5 May.

Migrant Workers Centre (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Carlton, MWC.

Migrant Workers Centre (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee.

Mitchell, S. (2020) 'Woolies underpay bill blows out to $400m', Australian Financial Review, 27 February.

National Retail Association (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Spring Hill, NRA.

National Tertiary Education Union (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee.

New South Wales Government (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Sydney, NSW Government.

O'Byrne, M., Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations (2020) Wage theft hurting Tasmanian workers, media release, 19 February.

Parliament of South Australia (date unknown) 'Wage Theft in South Australia', Parliament of South Australia website.

Patty, A. (2019) 'Criminalisation of wage theft likely to backfire, say experts', The Age, 3 January.

Penalty Rates and Fair Pay Select Committee (2018) Inquiry into penalty rates and fair pay, final report, Melbourne, The Committee, July.

Porter, C., Attorney-General (2019) Submissions invited on wage theft criminalisation, media release, 19 September.

Porter, C., Attorney-General (2020) More options needed to prevent wage underpayments, media release, 18 February.

Powell, D. & A. Patty (2020) 'Coles admits to $20m staff underpayment', The Age, 19 February.

Powell, D. (2020) ''Errors': Target staff underpaid $9m', The Age, 20 February.

Queensland Government (2019) Response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into wage theft in Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland Government, February.

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Robinson, R. & M. Brenner (2020) 'All these celebrity restaurant wage-theft scandals point to an industry norm', The Conversation, 10 February.

Schout, D. & M. Hill (2019) 'Hospitality wage theft in the city', CBD News, February.

Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Terms of Reference', Parliament of Australia website.

Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration', Parliament of Australia website.

Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration: Submissions', Parliament of Australia website.

Senate Education and Employment References Committee (2017) Corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act 2009, Final report, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.

Sentencing Advisory Council (2019) 'Fine', SAC website.

Sentencing Advisory Council (2019) 'Maximum Penalties', SAC website.

Smee, B. (2018) 'Underpayment of workers not 'wage theft', employer groups tell inquiry', The Guardian, 16 August.

The University of Melbourne (2019) Criminalisation of wage theft likely to backfire, according to experts, media release, 14 January.

Trindade, D. et al. (2019) 'Victoria extends its Fair Work referral for public sector employees', Clayton Utz website, 16 May.

United Workers Union (2020) United Workers Union welcomes the country's first wage theft laws, media release, 18 March.

United Workers Union (2020) We can stamp out wage theft: workers present solutions to the Senate today, media release, 5 March.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2020) Wage Theft Laws put Victorian business environment at risk, media release, 18 March.

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Vitorovich, L (2019) 'ABC budgets $23m for underpaid staff', The Australian, 19 November.

Wakeling, N., Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) More Labor hypocrisy on wage theft, media release, 14 October.

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Woolworths Group (2019) Statement regarding Salaried Team Members, media release, 30 October.


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[footnote 1] D. Andrews, Premier of Victoria (2018) Dodgy employers to face jail for wage theft, media release, 26 May.

[footnote 2] Penalty Rates and Fair Pay Select Committee (2018) Inquiry into penalty rates and fair pay, final report, Melbourne, The Committee, July, p. 46.

[footnote 3] Victorian Government (2018) Victorian Government response to the Victorian Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into Penalty Rates and Fair Pay, Melbourne, Victorian Government, September, p. 4.

[footnote 4] Fair Work Act 2009(Cth), s 4.

[footnote 5] Fair Work Ombudsman (date unknown) 'Legislation', Fair Work Ombudsman website.

[footnote 6] D. Trindade et al. (2019) 'Victoria extends its Fair Work referral for public sector employees', Clayton Utz website, 16 May.

[footnote 7] Fair Work Ombudsman (date unknown) op. cit.

[footnote 8] Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009

[footnote 9] Fair Work Ombudsman (date unknown) 'The Fair Work System', Fair Work Ombudsman website.

[footnote 10] ibid.

[footnote 11] ibid.

[footnote 12] ibid.

[footnote 13] K. Williams (2019) 'Australia moves to criminalise 'wage theft'', PinsentMasons, 6 November.

[footnote 14] Attorney-General's Department (2019) Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Canberra, Australian Government, September, p. 2.

[footnote 15] Fair Work Ombudsman (2019) Compliance and Enforcement Policy, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia, July.

[footnote 16] Attorney-General's Department (2019) op. cit., p. 11.

[footnote 17] A. Ferguson & B. Schneiders (2020) 'Underpayment as business model: what is wage theft?', Sydney Morning Herald, 18 February.

[footnote 18] ibid.

[footnote 19] Victorian Government (date unknown) 'Wage Theft', Engage Victoria website.

[footnote 20] Queensland Government Office of Industrial Relations (2019) 'Wage theft information for workers', Office of Industrial Relations website.

[footnote 21] B. Johnston, Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) Inquiry into wage theft complete, media release, 24 July.

[footnote 22] K. Williams (2019) op. cit.

[footnote 23] C. Porter, Attorney-General (2019) Submissions invited on wage theft criminalisation, media release, 19 September.

[footnote 24] C. Porter, Attorney-General (2020) More options needed to prevent wage underpayments, media release, 18 February.

[footnote 25] Senate Education and Employment References Committee (2017) Corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act 2009, final report, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 59.

[footnote 26] Attorney-General's Department (2019) op. cit., p. 2.

[footnote 27] ABC News (2015) '7-Eleven: The Price of Convenience', Four Corners, ABC News website, 30 August.

[footnote 28] A. Ferguson (2020) 'Scourge of wage fraud demands action', The Saturday Age, 22 February.

[footnote 29] M. Boersma (2020) 'Wage theft: Employer calls to 'reform' award system are a bare-faced con job', The New Daily, 22 February; A. Ferguson (2019) 'Under the grill', Saturday Age, 7 December.

[footnote 30] (2019) 'Act now on wage rip-offs', Editorial, Herald Sun, 19 July.

[footnote 31] T. Akerman (2019) 'Perry's Rockpool chain 'cheated its staff out of $10m'', The Australian, 25 October.

[footnote 32] D. Powell & A. Patty (2020) 'Coles admits to $20m staff underpayment', The Age, 19 February.

[footnote 33] D. Powell (2020) ''Errors': Target staff underpaid $9m', The Age, 20 February.

[footnote 34] E. Hannan (2020) 'Qantas worker underpay hit $7.1m', The Australian, 14 March.

[footnote 35] E. Hannan (2019) 'Bank underpayment of workers hits $53m', Weekend Australian, 14 December.

[footnote 36] Woolworths Group (2019) Statement regarding Salaried Team Members, media release, 30 October.

[footnote 37] S. Mitchell (2020) 'Woolies underpay bill blows out to $400m', Australian Financial Review, 27 February.

[footnote 38] Fair Work Ombudsman (2020) Audits recover $1.3 million for underpaid workers, media release, 11 March.

[footnote 39] ibid.

[footnote 40] ibid.

[footnote 41] D. Marin-Guzman (2020) 'Hero Sushi fined $900,000 for wages 'fraud'', Australian Financial Review, 18 May.

[footnote 42] Fair Work Ombudsman (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 11.

[footnote 43] L. Vitorovich (2019) 'ABC budgets $23m for underpaid staff', The Australian, 19 November.

[footnote 44] S. Jenkins (2019) 'Public sector unions lob 'wage theft' allegations at Vic government, ABC', The Mandarin, 21 October.

[footnote 45] N. Wakeling, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) More Labor hypocrisy on wage theft, media release, 14 October.

[footnote 46] M. Johnston (2019) 'Underpaid staff glitch', Herald Sun, 14 October; G. McArthur (2019) 'Docs to watch clock', Herald Sun, 1 August.

[footnote 47] F. Willan (2020) 'World Vision in pay error', The Age, 12 March.

[footnote 48] National Tertiary Education Union (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 2.

[footnote 49] S. Kane & E. Josserand (2019) 'Shocking yet not surprising: wage theft has become a culturally accepted part of business', The Conversation, 31 July.

[footnote 50] R. Robinson & M. Brenner (2020) 'All these celebrity restaurant wage-theft scandals point to an industry norm', The Conversation, 10 February.

[footnote 51] Attorney-General's Department (2019) op. cit., p. 2.

[footnote 52] C. Porter, Attorney-General (2019) Submissions invited on wage theft criminalisation, op. cit.

[footnote 53] Attorney-General's Department (2019) op. cit., p. 2.

[footnote 54] ibid., p. 13. (Note: under the Fair Work Act, a penalty unit has the meaning given by section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), which is currently $210 (subject to indexation at 1 July 2020)).

[footnote 55] P. Karp (2019) 'Wage theft: Coalition says tough new penalties won't apply for 'genuine mistakes'', The Guardian, 19 September.

[footnote 56] Attorney-General's Department (date unknown) 'Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance', AGD website.

[footnote 57] C. Porter, Attorney-General (2020) op. cit.

[footnote 58] Attorney-General's Department (2020) Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: further strengthening the civil compliance and enforcement framework, Canberra, Australian Government, 18 February.

[footnote 59] ibid., p. 2.

[footnote 60] ibid., pp. 10–11.

[footnote 61] ibid., pp. 14–16.

[footnote 62] Attorney-General's Department (date unknown) 'Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: further strengthening the civil compliance and enforcement framework', AGD website.

[footnote 63] Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration', Parliament of Australia website.

[footnote 64] Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Terms of Reference', Parliament of Australia website.

[footnote 65] Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration', op. cit.

[footnote 66] Senate Economics References Committee (date unknown) 'Unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration: Submissions', Parliament of Australia website.

[footnote 67] D. Andrews, Premier of Victoria (2018) op. cit.

[footnote 68] J. Hennessy, Attorney-General (2019) Victims to have their say on wage theft, media release, 26 August.

[footnote 69] ibid.

[footnote 70] Victorian Government (2020) Consultation Paper: Wage Theft Bill 2020, Melbourne, Victorian Government, p. 4.

[footnote 71] ibid., p. 3.

[footnote 72] ibid., p. 2.

[footnote 73] Victorian Government (date unknown) op. cit.

[footnote 74] Victorian Government (2020) op. cit., p. 2.

[footnote 75] J. Hennessy, Attorney-General (2020) 'Second reading speech: Wage Theft Bill 2020', Debates, Victoria, Legislative Assembly, 19 March, p. 1097.

[footnote 76] ibid.

[footnote 77] Explanatory Memorandum, Wage Theft Bill 2020, p. 1.

[footnote 78] Wage Theft Bill 2020, cl 6(1) and 6(7), pp. 9–10.

[footnote 79] ibid., cl 7(1) and 7(2), pp. 11–12.

[footnote 80] ibid., cl 8(1) and 8(2), pp. 13–14.

[footnote 81] The current value of a penalty unit in Victoria is $165.22. See: Department of Justice and Community Safety (2020) 'Penalties and values', DJCS website.

[footnote 82] Wage Theft Bill 2020, cls 6–8. See also: Sentencing Advisory Council (2019) 'Maximum Penalties', SAC website.

[footnote 83] Sentencing Advisory Council (2019) 'Fine', SAC website.

[footnote 84] Wage Theft Bill 2020, cl 20(1), pp. 22–23.

[footnote 85] ibid., cls 22 and 25, pp. 24–25.

[footnote 86] ibid., cls 32–33, pp. 29–30.

[footnote 87] ibid., cls 38–47, pp. 32–39.

[footnote 88] ibid., cls 48–63, pp. 40–52.

[footnote 89] ibid., cls 66–70, pp. 54–57.

[footnote 90] ibid., cls 71, 79, pp. 57, 62.

[footnote 91] Victorian Government (date unknown) op. cit.

[footnote 92] Cited in D. Marin-Guzman (2020) 'New crackdown on underpayments', Australian Financial Review, 18 February.

[footnote 93] Cited in B. Smee (2018) 'Underpayment of workers not 'wage theft', employer groups tell inquiry', The Guardian, 16 August.

[footnote 94] B. Smee (2018) op. cit.

[footnote 95] Business Council of Australia (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 1.

[footnote 96] Business Council of Australia (2020) op. cit., p. 1.

[footnote 97] Australian Retailers Association (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 4.

[footnote 98] A. Forsyth (2019) 'No, a 'complex' system is not to blame for corporate wage theft', The Conversation, 11 November.

[footnote 99] A. Fels & D. Cousins (2019) Report of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce, Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia, March, p. 5.

[footnote 100] Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2020) Wage Theft Laws put Victorian business environment at risk, media release, 18 March.

[footnote 101] The University of Melbourne (2019) Criminalisation of wage theft likely to backfire, according to experts, media release, 14 January.

[footnote 102] Victorian Trades Hall Council (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Carlton, VTHC, p. 7.

[footnote 103] See, for example: D. Schout & M. Hill (2019) 'Hospitality wage theft in the city', CBD News, February; A. McMillan (2018) 'Hospitality workers get online tool', Ballarat Courier, 5 May.

[footnote 104] United Workers Union (2020) United Workers Union welcomes the country's first wage theft laws, media release, 18 March.

[footnote 105] D. Marin-Guzman (2019) 'Unions push for five years' jail for wage theft', Australian Financial Review, 28 October.

[footnote 106] Australian Council of Trade Unions (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 66.

[footnote 107] D. Marin-Guzman (2019) op. cit.

[footnote 108] B. Smee (2018) op. cit.

[footnote 109] National Retail Association (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Spring Hill, NRA, p. 2.

[footnote 110] Law Council of Australia (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Braddon, LCA, p. 14.

[footnote 111] ibid.

[footnote 112] T. Hardy (2020) 'Criminal penalties for corporate wage theft are appealing, but won't fix the problem on their own', The Conversation, 20 February.

[footnote 113] Victorian Trades Hall Council (2019) op. cit., p. 1.

[footnote 114] Cited in A. Patty (2019) 'Criminalisation of wage theft likely to backfire, say experts', The Age, 3 January.

[footnote 115] Australian Council of Trade Unions (2018) FWO report barely scratches the surface of wage theft, media release, 8 November.

[footnote 116] Australian Council of Trade Unions (2019) ACTU welcomes ALP action on wage theft, media release, 15 May.

[footnote 117] Migrant Workers Centre (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 3.

[footnote 118] Migrant Workers Centre (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Carlton, MWC, p. 7.

[footnote 119] Victorian Trades Hall Council (2019) op. cit., p. 8.

[footnote 120] United Workers Union (2020) We can stamp out wage theft: workers present solutions to the Senate today, media release, 5 March.

[footnote 121] Senate Education and Employment References Committee (2017) op. cit., p. 69.

[footnote 122] Education and Employment References Committee (2018) Wage theft? What wage theft?! The exploitation of general and specialist cleaners working in retail chains for contracting or subcontracting cleaning companies, final report, Canberra, The Committee, November, p. vii.

[footnote 123] A. Fels & D. Cousins (2019) op. cit., p. 10.

[footnote 124] Attorney-General's Department (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, p. 13.

[footnote 125] ibid.

[footnote 126] New South Wales Government (2019) Submission to the industrial relations consultation, Improving protections of employees' wages and entitlements: strengthening penalties for non-compliance, Sydney, NSW Government, p. 1.

[footnote 127] ibid.

[footnote 128] Queensland Parliament (date unknown) 'Report No. 9, 56th Parliament - Inquiry into wage theft in Queensland', Queensland Parliament website.

[footnote 129] Education, Employment and Small Business Committee (2018) A fair day's pay for a fair day's work? Exposing the true cost of wage theft in Queensland, final report, Brisbane, The Committee, p. 175.

[footnote 130] Queensland Government (2019) Response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into wage theft in Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland Government, February, p. 4.

[footnote 131] G. Grace, Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) Government supports making wage theft a criminal offence, media release, 15 February.

[footnote 132] Y. D'Ath, Attorney-General, & G. Grace, Minister for Industrial Relations (2020) Wage theft. It's a crime, media release, 6 March.

[footnote 133] L. Lynch (2020) 'Qld bosses who underpay staff face 14 years' jail under proposed laws', Brisbane Times, 6 March.

[footnote 134] Parliament of South Australia (date unknown) 'Wage Theft in South Australia', Parliament of South Australia website.

[footnote 135] ibid.

[footnote 136] Cited in M. Maloney (2020) 'Tasmanian Labor calls for state inquiry into wage theft', The Examiner, 19 February.

[footnote 137] M. O'Byrne, Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations (2020) Wage theft hurting Tasmanian workers, media release, 19 February.

[footnote 138] Government of Western Australia (2019) 'Inquiry into Wage Theft in Western Australia', Government of Western Australia website.

[footnote 139] Government of Western Australia (2020) Submission to the Senate Economics References Committee, Inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration, March, Canberra, The Committee, pp. 1–2.

[footnote 140] B. Johnston, Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) op. cit.

[footnote 141] Government of Western Australia (2019) op. cit.

[footnote 142] T. Beech (2019) Inquiry into Wage Theft in Western Australia, final report, Perth, Government of Western Australia, p. 7.

[footnote 143] ibid., p. 12.

[footnote 144] ibid.

[footnote 145] Government of Western Australia (2019) Government response to the Inquiry into Wage Theft in Western Australia, Perth, Government of Western Australia, p. 1.

[footnote 146] B. Johnston, Minister for Industrial Relations (2019) McGowan Government announces actions to combat wage theft, media release, 6 December.