Workforce compliance

What does the new Labor government mean for your workforce compliance obligations?

What does the new Labor government mean for your workforce compliance obligations?
Georgia Simmonds
Georgia Simmonds
minute read
May 2, 2022
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As the dust settles on an election campaign where both major parties seemingly shied away from a noisy industrial relations platform, attention is turning now to what a new Labor Government will mean in this space in the future.

Key for us here at Yellow Canary is the ALP’s pledge to criminalise wage theft at a national level. Not a lot of detail exists yet, although the ALP have said they intend to consult with unions, States and Territories, and employer groups on the issue. Wage theft provisions were jettisoned from the Coalition’s watered-down industrial relations omnibus legislation last year.

In the ALP’s wage theft legislation, which does seem to be a priority, we might expect:

  • Criminal penalties for both employers and individuals who deliberately underpay workers;
  • Breaches to be accompanied by significant fines and potential jail terms;
  • Carve outs for honest mistaken underpayments; and/or
  • Any national legislation not to override any currently operating State and Territory laws.

This means that there are additional risks for employers who are failing to meet their workforce compliance obligations. In addition to large and unexpected wages bills and reputational damage, employers who aren’t proactively complying could be faced with criminal sanctions. Individuals within those businesses, including at Board and senior management level, are potentially exposing themselves to penalties and potential jail terms.

The move towards criminalisation of wage theft demonstrates the community expectation of employers to be taking workforce compliance seriously, and applying a diligent approach at all levels of the business.

Given what we know is coming, it’s even more important to get on the front foot now, and to ensure compliance is ongoing and the work is being done to identify and address any non-compliance as and when it arises.

* Yellow Canary content on this website is intended solely for the purpose of offering commentary and general knowledge. The content is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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