Hard times can prompt wage theft: Vic AG

Victoria's attorney-general is worried tough economic times brought on by the spread of coronavirus may lead to more wage theft.

The state government is moving to ramp up penalties, with employers who don't pay their workers properly facing up to 10 years' jail or fines of up to almost a million dollars.

The changes were promised by Premier Daniel Andrews before Victorians last went to the polls and legislation was introduced to state parliament on Wednesday.

Victorian Attorney-General and Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy says the laws come as she fears economic challenges posed by COVID-19 could tempt some employers to skirt paying their workers properly.

"We are concerned that when times are tough, it's very easy for people to make bad decisions, and bad decisions would be to underpay your workers," she told reporters on Wednesday.

"Any business model that relies upon underpaying workers, effectively, is a non-sustainable business model.

"We don't want people that are vulnerable, particularly during this time, where there's high degrees of uncertainty and anxiety, to think that they should in any way be subjected to wage theft or other forms of bullying and exploitation in the workplace."

Under the legislation, employers who dishonestly withhold wages, superannuation or other entitlements can face fines of up to $198,264 for individuals and $991,310 for companies.

They could also face up to 10 years in jail.

Employers who make honest mistakes or exercise due diligence in paying wages and entitlements will not be guilty under the laws.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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