What is wage theft?
Wage theft happens when your employer doesn’t pay you the minimum monetary amount, or allowances and entitlements that are outlined in the agreement or award that you work under.
It can happen by mistake, but in many instances, wage theft is a deliberate action taken by your boss to steal money that you are rightly and lawfully entitled to.
Wage theft is prevalent in many industries, including retail, fast food, hair and beauty and hospitality.
Types of wage theft
Wage theft can happen in a number of different ways.
It can involve employers:
- paying hourly rates below the national minimum rate;
- failing to pay overtime and penalties;
- making unlawful cash deductions from wages for things like breakages & accommodation;
- paying cash-in hand;
- enforcing illegal cash-back schemes;
- and failure to pay superannuation.
The national minimum wage
As of 1 July 2023, the national minimum wage is $23.23 per hour or $882.80 for a 38-hour week.
Casual employees must be paid a minimum $29.04 per hour – which includes a 25 percent casual loading.
Finding the award that applies to your job
Different jobs in different industries have different minimum pay rates and allowances and entitlements.
The specific wages and entitlements that you are eligible for can depend on:
- your age;
- the state you live in;
- the industry you work in;
- your qualifications; and
- your duties and responsibilities.
To check which award applies to your job, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website and use the Find Your Award Pay Calculator.
How we can help
We have a proven track record helping workers recover their stolen wages.
Recent changes to legislation has made wage theft a crime in Queensland and Victoria.
These changes have also made it easier for workers in those states to make an underpayment claim.
We have extensive experience filing wage theft claims in various courts and commissions and know how to recover every last cent for our clients.
In Queensland, we will take your claim to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for conciliation, and will not hesitate to escalate the matter to the Industrial Magistrates Court for determination.
Penalties for employers
Wage theft is now a crime in Queensland and Victoria, which means employers in those states can face criminal charges and convictions, and up to 10 years in jail.
Courts can also order employers to back-pay any unpaid wages and entitlements, plus interest.
Moreover, they can impose substantial penalties against employers – and in some cases, those penalties can be awarded to the worker.
Under federal laws, employers face maximum penalties of $12,600 for individuals per contravention, and $63,000 for companies per contravention.
For serious cases, the maximum penalties are even higher – $126,000 for individuals per contravention and $630,000 for companies per contravention.
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LAST UPDATED: July 2023