The Morrison Government has confirmed that it is drafting
changes to the law that will see the “criminalisation of worker exploitation”,
as confirmed by the Prime Minister in question time this week. The exact
shape of the legislative changes remains unknown at this time, however the PM
was clear, that the broadening of legislative penalties to include not just the
recently increased fines, but also criminal charges and jail time for those businesses
and directors that exploit employees, was something that the Government is
committed to. Further the PM called on Labour to support the proposed
changes in front of Parliament now aimed at the prevention of “wage theft” from
Following the spate of underpayment and exploitation cases
uncovered in various industries, and the very public settlement involving
celebrity chef George Calombaris, the Opposition pushed the Government in
question time to outline what action it was taking to stop underpayment of
workers, and the Prime Minister clearly told Parliament that “right now, the
Attorney-General is drafting laws to deal with criminalising worker
This comment comes after the submission of the Migrant
Worker Taskforce report and speaking outside of Parliament after question time,
Attorney-General and IR Minister Christian Porter expanded on the PMs comments
outlining that the Government is exploring how criminal penalties could be
applied for “the most serious forms of deliberate worker exploitation”.
In later comments Mr Porter outlined that the Government is sending a clear
message that worker exploitation “will not be tolerated by this Government”.
Drafting of the changes around the criminalisation of
exploitation of workers is underway now, and will be subject to a consultation
period prior to introduction to Parliament.
Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019, is before
Parliament now, and is aimed at protecting employee entitlement funds, which Mr
Porter outlined are not subject to “proper regulation in terms of
governance or in terms of transparency.”
claimed the results have not been in the best interests of workers and involved
the “misappropriation” of their wages from the funds.
changes are another reminder that there is no option for businesses to put
their heads in the sand on employment compliance. Getting employment
compliance right is hard, but failure to do so can cripple a business
financially, damage a brands reputation and that of operators, and soon, could
result in a criminal record that will follow operators forever.
Members are reminded that they can seek the advice and assistance of workplace
relations professionals via firstname.lastname@example.org