Much has been written recently about the underpayment of wages, which in some cases has been defined as “wage theft”.
The suite of awards that are in place either federally or from a state point of view are the minimum standard that apply to a particular employer or industry, not covered by an enterprise agreement.
Employers who underpay their staff are exposed to both fines and repayment of the underpaid wages. There are a number of cases and enquiries into this practice at present. For instance the Queensland Government is conducting hearings with a view to criminalising what the define as wage theft. This may mean that employers could face a jail sentence if convicted of underpaying wages.
The National Retail Association refers to this as non compliance rather than wage theft, principally because of the complexity of the award structure, where many employers unwittingly underpay their staff.
Similarly The Australian Industry Group says that criminalising underpayments “would represent a major unnecessary and unwarranted change to the industrial relations system”
The point here is that it is all employers responsibility to ensure that they are operating on the correct award and that their employees are being remunerated accordingly.
Also, importantly in the event of a Labor government federally there will be a strong push from the union movement to bring in changes such as criminalising underpayment of wages.
Check your award and wage structure!!