Update

The Wage Theft Act 2020 commenced on 1 July 2021. For further information about the Act or to report suspected wage theft, please visit vic.gov.au/wage-inspectorate-victoria.

Overview

Wage theft is the dishonest underpayment or non-payment of employee entitlements, and includes not paying what is owed, or failing to record and accrue leave entitlements.

In May 2018, the Victorian Government committed to introducing new laws to make wage theft a crime.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety undertook a series of consultations with employer groups and unions, conducted wage theft forums and issued a consultation paper for feedback.

The department received 20 submissions from a range of stakeholders, including industry associations, community legal centres, interest groups and members of the public.

Stakeholders agreed that deliberate underpayment of employee entitlements was unacceptable and should be addressed. Some submissions raised concerns about the proposed reforms, including:

  • The scope of the proposed offences and the definition of ‘dishonesty’
  • That most employers try to do the right thing and most cases of non-compliance are due to inadvertent mistake or complexity of the existing statutory scheme
  • Potential overlap with Commonwealth legislation
  • That criminal offences for dishonest employers would not assist employees to recover their unpaid entitlements.

The offences do not create new obligations for employers and do not apply in situations where employers make honest or reasonable mistakes.

The Government has also committed to reforming the Magistrates’ Court process to make it faster, cheaper and easier for employees to recover their entitlements through the courts. This work will be progressed separately.

The Wage Theft Act 2020 was introduced into Parliament on 18 March 2020 and commenced operation on 1 July 2021.

The reforms outlined in the consultation paper were implemented in the Wage Theft Act. The Act criminalises deliberately and dishonestly:

  • withholding employee entitlements,
  • failing to keep employee entitlement records, and
  • falsifying employee entitlement records.

These crimes are punishable by a fine of up to $218,088 or up to 10 years’ jail for individuals and a fine of up to $1,090,440 for companies.

The Act also established the Wage Inspectorate of Victoria, a new watchdog with the powers to properly investigate and prosecute these offences. The Wage Inspectorate commenced operation on 1 July 2021.

The 2020/21 State Budget also allocated $9.6 million over four years to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to establish an early intervention fast-track model for resolving unpaid entitlement claims in the Industrial Division of the Court.

Privacy collection notice

When providing your feedback you are not required to identify yourself unless you want to. Your privacy is important to us. The Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) will handle your feedback and personal information in line with Victoria's privacy laws. If you identify yourself the department will not disclose it without your consent, except where required to by law.

For any queries in relation to the this consultation, the information contained in this notice or if you would like to make a request to access or correct your information, please contact DJCS.

Please refer to the department's information privacy policy for more information.