New wage theft legislation in Queensland


Wage theft a crime in Queensland new legislationNew legislation in Queensland makes wage theft an offence with guilty employers facing possible jail terms.

The new wage theft legislation, introduced on 9 September 2020, will allow the prosecution of wage theft as stealing under the Queensland Criminal Code and increase the maximum penalties for the offences of stealing and fraud relating to wage theft. Those found guilty can face possible jail terms of up to 10 years, or 14 years if the theft also includes fraud.

The new laws amend the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (which incorporates the Criminal Code), the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld), the Magistrates Court Act 1921 (Qld) and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (QCAT) (Qld)..

What is wage theft?

Wage theft covers a range of underpayments and non-payments, and can include:

  • Underpayment of wages – unpaid hours or underpayment of hours
  • Sham contracting
  • Paying cash in hand
  • Not accurately recording hours of work
  • Withholding or not making the required superannuation contributions
  • Withholding or not correctly applying penalty rates or leave entitlements
  • Unreasonable deductions or not applying authorised deductions as agreed
  • Providing inaccurate payslips
  • Underpayment through intentional misclassification of workers – including applying the wrong Award or classification

What employers need to know

Employers need to ensure they are familiar with their employer obligations. The top things employers need to know:

Prosecution of wage theft
  • Wage theft can be prosecuted as an offence of stealing through the amended definitions of stealing as per, but not limited to the examples listed above.
  • If found guilty of wage theft, employers can face up to 10 years’ jail, or up to 14 years’ imprisonment if determined the wage theft occurs by fraud.
  • For claims up to $20,000, workers can pursue recovery of wages through the Queensland Industrial Magistrates Court.
The finer detail

You can access the full Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020 here. Read the Explanatory Notes for the Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020  

Understand your employer obligations

Are you unsure if you’re meeting your payroll obligations as an employer? If you would like more information regarding employer obligations and understanding requirements under the Awards, contact us. Get in touch today to discuss your particular situation via email, or call 07 3348 3666 and we’ll be ready to assist.