Qld ‘wage theft legislation’ and Fair Work
Ombudsman ‘priority areas’ you need to know
about.

Change is in the wind…
Underpayments, wage theft, self disclosing workplace law breaches and self reported non compliance are all very hot topics in the world of work at the moment. There is a serious shift in focus and sentiment from authorities and governments and the legislation has followed suit. This week a bill was introduced into the Queensland parliament to criminalise wages theft. The Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said

“More than $1.2 billion is siphoned out of workers pay packets
each year in unpaid or underpaid wages and around $1.1 billion
in underpayment of superannuation.”

“Your pay deserves to stay in your pocket’ Ms Grace said and she went on to say “Employers who commit wage theft face up to 10 years jail for stealing and 14 years for fraud under amendments to the Criminal Code.”
Finally, sentiment towards this behaviour is changing. “Sadly almost 25% of Queensland workers aren’t getting what they’re entitled to – they’ve had enough and frankly so have we” Grace said.

With Queensland joining other states with this bill including Victoria taking a very hard stance by introducing a ‘Wage Inspectorate’ the winds of change are shifting and it’s becoming an issue that is being brought out into the open and rectified with large penalties and even jail time for employers who break the rules.

Breaches can see potential fines of $991,320 for
companies and $198,264 for individuals as well
as up to 10 years jail. These laws are serious and
are intended to put an end to wage theft in this
country
.

What happened to a ‘Fair days work for a fair days pay’ ethos, in times past we have always prided ourselves on being a land of Aussie battlers so why shouldn’t we expect to be paid exactly what we have earned and are entitled to? The laws now say that we can and they will ensure it.


On the flip-side we know the rules and Modern Award Instruments are very difficult to navigate. We know that many employers and recruiters use manual spreadsheets and many hours checking and implementing increases and new award updates. Processes prone to human error.
Many do not have dedicated payroll divisions or staff that specialise in award calculations. So naturally breaches of the regulations and breaking of the rules is inevitable for some.

This is made even more difficult for those that operate across the country with branches in several states, managing the awards and penalties under these circumstances is no easy task.
In addition to the Queensland government’s introduction of the new ‘Wage Theft’ bill the Fair Work Ombudsman FWO has recently announced ‘Priority Areas’ the Ombudsman Sandra Parker advises they are prioritising serious non compliance in the light of an increase in employers and employees seeking assistance.

“Underpayments in the corporate sector will continue to be a priority… More than 60 businesses have come forward to self-disclose workplace law breaches with a total of half a billion dollars owed to workers- and that’s just what we know about.”
Sandra Parker says

The priority sectors FWO identified are:
Large Corporate Underpayments
Fast food, restaurants and cafes
Horticulture
Franchise arrangements
Sham Contracting

The IR Minister Grace Grace says:
“The threat of tough criminal charges for deliberate wage theft, together with the new streamlined process for recovering underpayment, will provide a strong incentive for employers in Queensland to do the right thing and pay worker their full entitlements.”

Recruitment & HR Staff, subject matter experts?
Many managers rely on their HR departments or recruitment agencies to be the experts in all matters relating to employment including on-boarding, pay rates, penalties, allowances, increases etc. Recruiters and HR staff are expected to be the subject matter experts in this area, but are they?

In depth award knowledge is not often a mastered skill set. Under the new laws managers who have relied on these departments for correct calculations can also face liabilities if those staff members do not actually have the correct knowledge. So this takes the responsibility for getting it right to a whole new level. There is now increased responsibility to navigate this part of employment regulation very carefully.

All recruiter & employers should be on high alert and should ensure that staff are very well trained, comfortably can apply all the changes to the awards as they are issued promptly, updated information is accessed by the FWO and an in depth and comprehensive understanding is essential.

So given the current landscape has there ever been a more important time to install software that can handle all this digitally?

Surely, in the world of tech and automation there is a tool
out there that can ensure your business is protected from
breaching these laws and your staff are saved from the
responsibility of being an expert or the consequences of
getting it wrong, for the worker and the business.

Well, there is such a platform out there. Australian owned ratescalc.com is a simple, easy to use software platform that manages pay rates, employment contracts, EBA’s, margins and compliance. For less than the price of a coffee you can ensure that you do not have to be the one to come under scrutiny of FWO. Let ratescalc.com be the subject matter experts and take the pressure off you and your staff.

How does ratescalc.com protect your business from non compliance?
Ratescalc has several standard features that will help ensure that you are compliant and paying correctly. These include:


• A full suite of calculators in its digital quoting engine that break down every aspect of pay rates of any kind, including Casual PAYG, Casual Flat Rate PAYG, Tenured/FixedTerm and Non-Award based PAYG rates
• Automated document production of contracts and employment schedules that specify in black and white the exact component of any given rate that is paid
• Advanced APIs that list conditions specifically on every payslip and document you send to an employee
• Tight integrations with many of the leading recruitment industry platforms, ensuring the breakdown rate component data is pushed to your system (or pulled down from ratescalc by your system)

Further reading:
http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/7/15/new-legislation-to-make-wage-theft-acrime
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/employers-face-jail-for-wage-theftfrom-workers/news-story/9ea34d9aed7fdd83132ff7b7c6cbbb28
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australia-wage-theft-laws-penalties-jail-fines-2020-2

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/2019-mediareleases/june-2019/20190603-aig-pir-media-release

Disclaimer: This article is no substitute for legal advice and does not take into account the particulars of your individual situation. Whilst Ratescalc offers many features to protect against industry risk, your work process
and daily practices will always be the most critical factor in risk mitigation and avoidance.
The team at ratescalc can guide your organisation on how best to enable your business through the use of its proprietary software. Formal notices, contracts and schedules issued to your candidates / employees on behalf of your organisation should be reviewed by your trusted legal advisors.

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