Wage Theft "Endemic" in Australia
Wage theft in Australia has been described as "endemic" with research from payroll provider, ADP, revealing that 1 in 9 employees report always being underpaid and two thirds of all Australian workers not receiving their full wages. Estimates from 2020 place Australia's levels of wage theft at around $1.3 billion per year with the sectors most at risk including accommodation and food services (~$190 million), construction (~$320 million), healthcare and social assistance (~$220 million) and retail (~$180 million).
In October 2022 the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered more than $530 billion in unpaid wages and entitlements for nearly 400,000 Australian employees for the 2021-2022 period. This 'record sum' was more than 3 times higher than the previous year and more than quadruple for the 2019-2020 year. More than half of these recovered wages came from large corporate employers.
In 2023 the Fair Work Ombudsman has initiated legal action against a Melbourne-based consulting services company and a Queensland civil engineering company. A commercial laundry business has also been fined $90,000 for underpaying 22 employees and Super Retail Group, the parent company of BCF, Rebel and Supercheap Auto, has been accused of underpaying employees more than $1 million.
An investigation initiated in 2021 by the Fair Work Ombudsman into Woolworths revealed a total of more than $570 million in wages unpaid to employees. In 2019 Merivale Group was served a $129 million class action law suit by 14,000 employees, with claims of being underpaid and not paid for overtime hours over a period of 6 years.
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