Australia – Senate inquiry calls for laws to stamp out ‘systemic, sustained and shameful’ wage theft (ABC News)

March 31, 2022

A Senate inquiry report calls for new laws to protect employees and says wage theft in Australia is ‘systemic, sustained and shameful’ and workers are often too scared to speak out for fear of repercussions, reports ABC News. The Senate committee, created in 2019 to investigate illegal employee underpayment, made 19 recommendations to end the practice. A key recommendation is that the federal government amend the Fair Work Act to prohibit wage theft. The legislation would apply to the theft of all employee compensation, including loadings, penalty rates, overtime, holidays, allowances and pension guarantee. The Senate committee said it found the current legislative and regulatory framework to be inadequate to prosecute wage and pension theft. “Systemic wage theft is often a deliberate move by companies participating in a race to the bottom to drive down wages and increase profits,” the report said. The Senate committee recommended increasing penalties for wage theft and making it illegal for bosses to pay staff below minimum wage.

“Failure to comply with Australian minimum employment laws has become pervasive, as well as ‘endemic’ in some sectors, and [this] underscores the need for government action,” the report said. Hospitality, retail, horticulture, high-franchise businesses and higher education were highlighted as some of the worst offending sectors.

Norman D. Briggs