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Wage theft - employer information

Victoria's wage theft laws make it a crime to deliberately and dishonestly underpay employees or withhold their entitlements.

Pay and conditions

Employers must provide their employees with at least the minimum pay and conditions outlined in the relevant award, workplace agreement, contract of employment or legislation and keep employee entitlement records.

Information about pay rates and employee entitlements is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Wage theft

In Victoria, from 1 July 2021, it became a crime to:

  • deliberately and dishonestly underpay workers
  • deliberately and dishonestly withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements
  • falsify employee entitlement records to gain a financial advantage
  • avoid keeping employee entitlement records to gain a financial advantage

These crimes are punishable by a fine of up to $218,088 or up to 10 years’ jail for individuals and a fine of up to $1,090,440 for companies.

Victoria’s wage theft laws target employers who deliberately and dishonestly withhold wages and other worker entitlements. Honest mistakes made by employers who exercise due diligence in paying wages and entitlements are not considered wage theft.

Ask us a question or report suspected wage theft

Use our online form to:

  • ask a question about wage theft
  • report suspected wage theft
  • submit additional documents for an existing report.

Ask a question or report suspected wage theft

You can also ask a question or report suspected wage theft by calling us on 1800 287 287.

Frequently asked questions

  • If you have underpaid an employee, you should fix this as soon as possible. Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman’s step-by-step guide to fixing an underpayment.

  • Entitlements are defined in the Wage Theft Act 2020 as an amount payable to an employee or any other benefit payable or attributable to an employee, including:

    • wages or salary
    • allowances and gratuities
    • annual leave
    • long service leave
    • meal breaks
    • superannuation
  • Victoria’s wage theft laws came into effect on 1 July 2021, however, laws already require employers to provide workers with the pay and conditions outlined in the relevant award, workplace agreement, contract of employment or legislation and keep employee entitlement records.

  • The Wage Inspectorate can only investigate alleged wage theft offences that occurred on or after 1 July 2021. However, entitlements accrued before 1 July 2021 will be captured if the employer’s conduct to dishonestly withhold those entitlements occurs after 1 July 2021.

  • Employers must provide their employees with at least the minimum pay and conditions outlined in the relevant award, workplace agreement, contract of employment or legislation. The minimum pay rates and conditions in awards, legislation and registered workplace agreements cannot be overridden by a contract or by an agreement with the employee that provides for less beneficial entitlements.

  • The offences apply to employers and to ‘officers’ of that employer.

    Which roles are considered ‘officers’ depends on the entity type of the employer, but it generally applies to roles that have significant decision-making responsibilities within a business, such as:

    • directors
    • office holders
    • partners
    • people who may make substantial business decisions on behalf of the employer

    The Wage Theft Act 2020 specifies who is considered an ‘officer’ of an employer.

    Who is an ‘officer’ of a body corporate employer mirrors section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001.

  • Yes, however, an employee acting at the direction of their employer, who is not an officer of the employer, is not captured by the offences under Victoria’s wage theft laws.

    Which roles are considered ‘officers’ depends on the entity type of the employer, but it generally applies to roles that have significant decision-making responsibilities within a business, such as:

    • directors
    • office holders
    • partners
    • people who may make substantial business decisions on behalf of the employer

    The Wage Theft Act 2020 specifies who is considered an ‘officer’ of an employer.

    Who is an ‘officer’ of a body corporate employer mirrors section 9 of the Corporations Act 2001.

  • Victoria’s wage theft laws don’t impose new record-keeping obligations on employers. Various pieces of legislation already require employers to keep employee entitlement records, including about allowances, annual leave and long service leave.

    The wage theft laws make it a crime to deliberately falsify these records or fail to keep them to gain a financial advantage or prevent the exposure of a financial advantage.

  • We will conduct an independent, impartial and transparent investigation to determine whether we believe a wage theft offence has been committed. An inspector will:

    • clearly explain the allegation made against you or your business
    • ask questions about the matter
    • ask for documents or other relevant information
    • give you the opportunity to respond to the allegations being investigated

    We will let you know the outcome of the investigation, if appropriate.

    Our inspectors have strong powers, including the power to:

    • enter premises
    • obtain information and documents
    • seize evidence
    • require a person to give evidence or answer questions under oath or affirmation
    • apply for and execute search warrants
    • refer matters to the Office of Public Prosecutions for advice and criminal prosecution

    Many of these powers are coercive, meaning that you must cooperate with requests made, unless you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so. An inspector will give you information about your rights and obligations if they exercise these powers.

  • Our inspectors have strong powers that they can use to investigate potential wage theft offences, including the power to:

    • enter premises
    • obtain information and documents
    • seize evidence
    • require a person to give evidence or answer questions under oath or affirmation
    • apply for and execute search warrants

    Many of these powers are coercive, meaning that you must cooperate with requests made, unless you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so. An inspector will give you information about your rights and obligations if they exercise these powers.

  • We review all evidence to determine whether there is enough for a court to be satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that a wage theft offence has been committed.

    No offences found

    If our investigation does not identify any wage theft offences, we will take no further action. This could occur when:

    • there is insufficient evidence to prove an alleged offence beyond reasonable doubt
    • no evidence is available
    • the employer is found to be complying with the law

    Offences found

    If our investigation finds one or more offences have occurred, we may:

    • issue a formal written warning for minor breaches
    • accept a written undertaking from the employer or officer to ensure they don’t commit another wage theft offence
    • bring criminal proceedings
    • refer indictable matters to the Office of Public Prosecutions to conduct a criminal prosecution

    We will notify the complainant of the outcome of our investigation.

Reviewed 22 July 2021

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