In a bold move to tackle the rampant issue of intentional underpayment, the Albanese Government is gearing up to introduce Federal laws that will thrust companies and individuals into the fiery crucible of accountability. The battleground is set, and the stakes are high, with proposed penalties that could make your head spin.

Picture this: Companies caught in the act of intentional wage theft could find themselves staring down the barrel of a financial cannon, facing a maximum fine that’s not for the faint of heart—either a jaw-dropping

  • $7.825 million, or
  • a triple whammy of the underpayment amount.

It’s a financial knockout punch that will leave no room for unscrupulous employers to slither away unscathed.

But that’s not all. For those daring individuals who dare to dance with the devil of intentional wage theft, the consequences are even more severe. Brace yourself for the possibility of:

  • a maximum 10-year sentence behind bars, or
  • a financial reckoning of either $1.565 million or three times the amount of the underpayment.

As matters intensify, employers from every corner of industry find themselves in the crosshairs, facing fines for the underpayment of their workforce. Now, more than ever, the call to action is deafening—ensure that your house is in order before the storm hits.

Here’s a quick health check:

  1. Navigate the Modern Maze: Are you paying your employees under the correct Modern Award? Have you recently checked; it’s time to ensure you’re on the right Award.
  2. Penalties, Overtime, and Allowances: Make sure that your employees are not shortchanged on penalties, overtime, allowances and entitlements as per the Modern Award. On most occasions, simply believing you’re paying above the award to cover entitlements is insufficient.
  3. Award Levels and Classifications: Are your employees classified on the correct level within the award? Double-check to avoid casualties on the classification battlefield.
  4. Employment Documents: Do you provide your employees with up-to-date employment contracts that spell out entitlements, any pay averaging as well as the correct terms and conditions? It’s your shield in wage theft accusations.

To understand how difficult it may be to interpret a Modern Award accurately, this month the government department responsible for overseeing federal workplace and employment conditions had to pay about $200,000 to rectify a more than $60,000 underpayment of 99 staff. According to reports, the underpayments were a result of departmental changes that occurred after the 2022 election.

Not surprisingly, the Minister responsible for the department, Tony Burke did not wish to make a statement. However, a spokesperson for the department acknowledged the gravity of the situation, stating unequivocally, “Wage underpayment should not occur in any circumstance.”

Enter Senator Cash, who seized the opportunity to deliver a knockout blow: “If the department responsible, Employment and Workplace Relations, struggles to pay its staff correctly, what hope do small businesses have?” It’s a rallying cry for action, a call to arms against the insidious plague of wage theft that threatens to undermine the very foundations of fair employment practices.

In this high-stakes game, there’s no room for complacency and the time for action is now. Will your business take a proactive risk management approach to keep your house in order or become part of the $500 million dollar problem?

The choice is yours but be warned — Regulators are Cracking Down on Underpayment!

Do you need a wages review or help understanding your HR and WHS responsibilities? Business 360 is here to assist. Call us on 1300 287 360 or email If you prefer a confidential discussion with one of our directors, scan or click below to book a time to discuss your needs.

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