Victoria passes legislation to criminalize wage theft

Victoria has become the first state to criminalise wage theft, with the Wage Theft Bill 2020 passing both houses of parliament this week.

The legislation will take effect on 1 July 2021 and will create new wage theft offences, which target employers who steal pay and other employee entitlements or who falsify or fail to keep records. A new statutory body, the Wage Inspectorate Victoria, will have functions and powers to investigate and prosecute wage theft offences.

Importantly, employers and their directors may be criminally liable for employee entitlement offences where entitlements owed to an employee are dishonestly withheld or where employee entitlement records are falsified or not kept and may face fines of nearly $1 million for corporations and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for individuals.

This is a positive step for employees who are otherwise forced to seek civil remedies.

It is now even more important that directors and company office holders are aware of their obligations to employees and take steps to ensure compliance.

If you have questions regarding obligations to employees or your obligations as a director, Heather Richardson can help.