Employers could face jail for wage theft under new laws says Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that employers who exploit workers may soon face criminal penalties.
"Right now, the Attorney-General is drafting laws to deal with criminalising worker exploitation," Mr Morrison confirmed during parliamentary question time on Wednesday.
This comes after Industrial Relations minister, and Attorney General, Christian Porter said that the $200,000 contrition payment ordered for George Calombaris' Made Establishment for stealking $7.8 million in wages from 515 employees was insufficient.
"I think that fine myself is light," he told ABC Radio National.
"We will review penalties and I'm open-minded to submissions that there should be further penalties there, inclusive of potentially criminal penalties reserved for repetitious breaches."
Last week Mr Porter said criminal sanctions would send "a strong and unambiguous message to those employers who think they can get away with the exploitation of vulnerable employees".
Mr Porter added that the new measures aim to "protect vulnerable workers and ensure law-abiding Australian employers are not undercut by unscrupulous competitors".
Over the coming months, Mr Porter will review legislation and work with employer groups and unions, no doubt facing scrutiny.
Senior employment relations adviser at Employsure, Michael Wilkinson hit back at the announcement.
According to Mr Wilkinson, wage underpayment is an undeniable problem across the country, but that investigation into the causes is needed rather than heaping more regulation, compliance, and punishment onto employers.
“Before we label an entire section of Australia’s economy as bosses intent on ripping off their staff, can we perhaps examine a deeper reason why employers might be struggling to pay their staff correctly?” he said.
In an interview with Fairfax, Former ACCC chairman Allan Fels supported the Prime Minister's statements, saying, "there should be the real prospect of jail sentences ... in sustained, substantial and intentional cases."