Aussie bosses face jail, fine under new 'Wage Theft' law

CANBERRA: Employers who are caught deliberately underpaying workers will face jail time and multi-million-dollar fines under new laws proposed by the Australian government, reported Xinhua.

Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Sunday that he will introduce legislation for the industrial relations changes to Parliament on Monday.

Under the proposed laws, the maximum criminal penalty for employers who are found to have intentionally engaged in wage theft will be increased to a 10-year imprisonment and fines of up to AU$7.8 million (US$5.03 million), or three times the amount that was underpaid if that figure exceeds the maximum fine.

Burke told the ABC the legislation would close a "loophole" and that he was surprised by the backlash from business and employer groups.

"If you intentionally, as a worker, take money from the till, it is a criminal offence and it should be. But if the employer intentionally withholds money from your pay, it's not a criminal offence," he said.

"That's a simple loophole, it should be logically simple to close – I'm surprised it's even been controversial. The objective here is not to send people to jail. The objective is to make sure people are paid properly.

"A PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis published in February estimated that Australians are collectively underpaid by AU$1.35 billion (US$870.7 million) every year.

A separate report published by the Migrant Worker Centre in September 2022 found that 64.8 per cent of workers in Australia on temporary visas – including international students – experienced wage theft.-- BERNAMA-XINHUA

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