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Wage theft

Legislation amending the Criminal Code to make wage theft a crime has been introduced to Queensland parliament. At the time of making this post it has not yet passed.

Interestingly – and inconsistently with Victorian wage theft legislation – there is no mention of directors’ liability for wage theft as a result of which there is at least some question as to whether company officers would have criminal responsibility for the theft by their company.

Regardless, the laws are very strict and may make criminal minor delays in payment and potentially honest mistakes or oversights. While the section does require that the the underpayment is fraudulent, there will be instances where an omission might seem intentional (and fraudulent) when it was perfectly benign.

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Wage theft criminalised in Queensland​

The Queensland parliament in August 2020 introduced legislation which resulted in the failure to pay employment entitlements of workers becoming a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 10 years under the Criminal Code.

This is achieved by categorising wage theft as stealing under the Code, and providing that it is deemed taken when it is not paid when it ought to be paid.

The types of employment entitlements covered by the proposed provision include usual wages, salaries and the like but also superannuation and tax contributions of employees commonly left unpaid or deferred by employers who have hit hard times.

It remains to be seen how this will apply to a director of a company employer, however it will add another dimension to personal liabilities for business operators whether in insolvency or otherwise.

For all enquiries, please contact us on +61 755 74 0111 or admin@qbmlaw.com.au.

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