One in five workers is being underpaid, according to new audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman, suggesting that wage theft is a national problem affecting tens of thousands of workers.
Fair Work inspectors raided more than 1,300 businesses in towns in three states, including Shepparton in Victoria, Shoalhaven in New South Wales and Wide Bay and Ipswich in Queensland.
Nearly 1000 workers were repaid more than $580,000 after the widespread wage theft was discovered in a number of different businesses, including accommodation, hospitality and retail.
22 per cent not paying employees correctly
Inspectors found 22 per cent of all audited business weren’t paying their workers correctly, while 15 per cent weren’t keeping proper records or providing pay slips.
The Ombudsman said it recovered an average of $600 for each underpaid employee.
The most common breaches were the underpayment of the minimum hourly rate, followed by underpayment of overtime and penalty rates.
In addition to recovering lost wages, inspectors issued 39 cautions, warning employers about the consequences of continued non-compliance, and 27 on-the-spot fines.
Need for criminal sanctions
Industrial relations expert Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au said the results of the audit is more evidence that wage theft is widespread and current penalties are not working.
“You can talk about handing out caution notices and slapping dodgy bosses with petty fines all you want – but it’s not solving the problem,” he said.
“Until the federal government decides to get serious about this problem and introduce criminal penalties for wage theft, and until it increases the budget of the regulator – the Fair Work Ombudsman – so it can carry out more audits like this and launch more legal action against unscrupulous bosses, then wage theft will continue to run rife in this country.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman has promised to revisit the businesses involved in the audits and has threatened to take serious enforcement action against those who continue to breach workplace laws.
If you have not received your proper wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our specialist team at WAGETHEFT.net.au on
1300 1 THEFT (1300 184 338)
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