Wage theft will be a crime from July 1 in Victoria

It will soon be a crime for an employer in Victoria to deliberately underpay employees.

Victoria’s wage theft laws will soon be in force, meaning as of July 1, it will become a crime for an employer in Victoria to deliberately underpay employees; dishonestly withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements; falsify employee entitlement records to gain a financial advantage; and avoid keeping employee entitlement records to gain a financial advantage.

The crimes are punishable by a fine of up to $198,264 or up to 10 years’ jail for individuals, and a fine of up to $991,320 for companies.

Wage theft offences involve deliberate and dishonest conduct. Honest mistakes made by employers who exercise due diligence in paying wages and entitlements are not considered wage theft.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria will enforce the new laws, informing, educating and assist businesses and workers about their rights and obligations, investigating wage theft and prosecuting offenders. It will also respond to reports and tip-offs about wage theft.

If an issue arises, a Wage Inspectorate Victoria spokesperson said inspectors would clearly explain the allegation made against a business, provide the business with an opportunity to respond to the allegations and ask questions, and ask for documents or other relevant information.

Inspectors have strong powers that they can use to investigate potential wage theft offences, including the power to enter premises, obtain information and documents, seize evidence, require a person to give evidence or answer questions under oath or affirmation and apply for and execute search warrants.

Many of these powers are coercive, meaning people must cooperate with requests made, unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.

If inspectors believe a wage theft offence has been committed, they may issue a formal written warning, accept an enforceable undertaking, bring criminal proceedings or refer indictable matters to the Office of Public Prosecutions for advice and criminal prosecution.

For more information about the new wage theft laws, visit www.vic.gov.au/victorias-wage-theft-laws