SUBMISSION TO THE SENATE ECONOMIC REFERENCES COMMITTEE INQUIRY ON UNLAWFUL UNDERPAYMENT OF EMPLOYEES’ REMUNERATION
Summary of recommendations:
1. Wage theft should be comprehensively defined to include any underpayment, withholding, or misappropriation of the wages and entitlements.
2. Compliance monitoring and regulation should be strengthened through increasing funding of the FWO and restoring trade unions’ entry powers for inspection.
3. Public contracts should not be awarded to businesses that engage in wage theft.
4. Penalties for wage theft should be proportionally applied in reference to the number of instances of each contravention made, number of workers affected, length of period over which contraventions are made. Criminal sanctions should be introduced against serious forms of wage theft conducted in systemic manners.
5. Accessorial accountability should be extended to anyone who causes wage theft to occur or assists in the commitment of wage theft across supply chains and through the provision of accounting and migration services.
6. A wage theft inspectorate should be established that holds the authority to (a) inspect businesses’ employment and payment records, (b) investigate any potential wage theft, and (c) press criminal charges.
7. Additional penalties should be applied for contraventions made disproportionately against migrant workers and for practices of knowingly unduly influencing, pressuring, or coercing temporary migrant workers in breach of their visa conditions.
8. The Fair Entitlement Guarantee should be extended to workers on temporary visas.
9. A clear and strong firewall between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Home Affairs should be created by making comprehensive improvements to the existing Assurance Protocol.
10. A bridging visa should be established to regularise stay of migrant workers who have workplace claims pending. Any breaches of visa-specific work conditions by a migrant worker filing claims for wage theft should not provide a ground for cancelling the worker’s current visa or denying a subsequent visa.