The Victorian Parliament recently passed the Wage Theft Bill 2020 which is expected to take effect by no later than 1 July 2021 (ie sometime in the next 12 months).
Should you be worried about that?
The odds are that, if you are reading our blogs, you are compliant or you want to ensure that you are compliant with your wage obligations as an employer.
If that is the case, don’t worry about the Wage Theft legislation – celebrate it! Yes, that’s right – PARTY!!!
We all know that there are unscrupulous businesses out there who deliberately rip workers off – they are the ones that this legislation is targeted at and they deserve it.
Don’t forget that they are also unfairly gaining a commercial advantage over the business owners who are doing the right thing……..like you!
We know that there have been quite a few celebrated cases of wage underpayments involving celebrities and household name corporates.
Some of those probably did know that they were not compliant but thought they wouldn’t be caught.
Some probably got adventurous legal advice that sounded good but was really ill advised.
Others may well have had their own HR staff but Fair Work/workplace relations is a very complex field requiring specialist knowledge which is not as common as you might think among HR Practitioners.
Many of those exposed businesses have learned their lessons – the hard way – and many remain under the watchful eye of the Fair Work Ombudsman via undertakings and reporting requirements. So even they are unlikely to be really troubled by this new Wage Theft legislation.
So let’s just be clear on what do you need to do to be doing the right thing (if you are not already doing it) and not have to worry about this legislation:
- Ensure that you understand and meet your obligations to your employees under legislation, regulations and modern awards
- Have clear and compliant employment agreements that set out clearly what the wages and employment conditions are and which reference any relevant modern award and/or enterprise agreement
- Maintain all required employment records accurately and up to date and
- Have access to competent professional advice on Fair Work compliance and other workplace relations/HRM matters
You tick those 4 boxes and you are not likely to have any worries about compliance. We can help you with that.
Now, as for the bad guys, this is what the Wage Theft legislation means for them.
The offences (in general terms) are:
- Dishonestly withholding at least part of an employee entitlement; or
- Falsifying an employee entitlement record to dishonestly obtain or cover up a financial advantage; or
- Failing to keep an employee entitlement record to dishonestly obtain or cover up a financial advantage;
Offences can attract penalties of up to $991,320 for bodies corporate and 10 years’ jail for individuals.
A Victorian Wage Inspectorate with wide ranging inspection and enforcement powers is to be established with its own Commissioner.
If you haven’t the benefit of professional advice on your workplace relations compliance situation or you just want to make sure, you might want to take advantage of our Lockdown Special Offer on a Fair Work Compliance Assessment. Check it out.