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Wage Theft Bill

June 16, 2020

The Victorian government’s Wage Theft Bill creates so called “wage theft” offences that may lead to employers being charged with an offence with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a fine of over $991,000. The Bill has now been passed by the Victorian Parliament.

The main offence occurs when an employer dishonestly withholds the whole or part of an employee entitlement. That the employee has consented to the withholding is irrelevant.  An employee entitlement is not just wages or salary but also includes allowances, leave entitlements and superannuation. The main defence for an employer who underpays any employee entitlements is the need for the prosecution to prove that the intent of the employer is dishonest.

It is understood that the new offences may not commence until 1 July 2021 but the Victorian government has the power to make these offences commence earlier. It is hoped that with the economy now in recession the government will be mindful of the need not to make it more difficult for employers to employ people.

HIA also notes that there has been some speculation about the constitutional validity of the Wage Theft Bill. It is possible that there will be a legal challenge to the Bill, and especially so if the Commonwealth introduces similar legislation. But the outcomes of any such challenge are likely to come well after the new offences commence.

There are a number of services offered by HIA to help members with employee entitlements. Members can contact HIA on 1300 650 620 to get more information.