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Wage underpayment now punishable by jail time in QLD

Following a number of high profile wage underpayment cases, Queensland has joined the ACT and Victoria in making wage theft a criminal offence. Employers caught intentionally stealing from their employees are now punishable by up to 10 years in prison for ‘stealing’ and a maximum of 14 years in jail for an offence of fraud.

The new laws also set up a small claims process which allows conciliation to recover underpayments of up to $20,000.

The process can be initiated by workers or a Union making a complaint to Queensland Police. Included in the list of entitlements that can be classified as wage theft are:

  • unpaid hours or underpayment of hours

  • unpaid penalty rates

  • unreasonable deductions

  • unpaid superannuation

  • withholding entitlements

  • underpayment through intentionally misclassifying a worker including wrong award, wrong classification or by ‘sham contracting’ and the misuse of ABNs

  • authorised deductions that have not been applied as agreed.

What do you need to do?

It is now more important than ever to ensure you are correctly paying employee entitlements by:

  • understanding the relevant Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreements for your business and staying up to date with changes to minimum rates of pay and conditions

  • conducting annual audits of each employee’s pay and immediately rectifying any shortfalls

  • ensuring that employment agreements have ‘set-off’ clauses, particularly where there are all inclusive salaries.


Covid-19 Award flexibilities extended until March 2021 - Excluding Clerks Award

In April 2020 the Commission inserted Schedule X into 99 awards. This schedule provided:

  • unpaid pandemic leave, and

  • the option for employees to take twice as much annual leave at half pay.

In line with the extension of the JobKeeper scheme, these provisions have now been extended until 29 March 2021 for 74 modern awards.

The Clerks Private Sector Award 2020 was not one of these awards, but there has been an application made for its extension. This award also has Schedule I which provides flexibility around ordinary hours and working from home for the COVID-19 Pandemic, until 30 November 2020. As many employers are covered by the Clerks Private Sector Award it’s important that you check your coverage and obligations before making any workplace changes that could be affected by these clauses.

If you would like specific advice and assistance to manage this within your workplace, please contact us on or 07) 5612 9914.

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