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Why are Australian employees being underpaid?


In recent months, the news has been filled with stories of businesses that have been accused of underpaying their employees. Most recently, Coles and Target joined other major Australian businesses, including Qantas, Bunnings, Dominos, high-end dining enterprise Rockpool and Woolworths, are just some of the large employers who have been found to not be paying full entitlements to their staff. As the list of employers who have underpaid their staff continues to grow at an alarming rate, it almost seems impossible that this has been allowed to happen.

Shine Lawyers’ employment law expert Samantha Mangwana knows only too well the distress that workers can face when they are underpaid employees.

“We are called almost daily by workers who have not been paid their full legal entitlements,” says Samantha Mangwana. “Sometimes this is misclassification, but often we see a pattern of deliberate avoidance. In the worst cases, that is to avoid payment of basic entitlements to vulnerable workers, such as annual leave, super, minimum wage, overtime.

“Tolerance is starting to wear thin on underpayments cases, and high penalty awards are increasingly being ordered, on top of back pay. The message is clear – employers need to get their act together to rectify the situation, or face serious consequences.”

Tough new penalties for employee underpayment

In the wake of this crisis, the Attorney General Christian Poter has called for tough new penalties to be enforced for businesses who underpay employees and don’t pay their employees their full entitlements. His office said: “The Government considers it unacceptable that there is a persistence of underpayment and exploitation behaviours by a small number of employers and considers there to now be a strong case that the current penalty, compliance, and enforcement framework for breaches of the Fair Work Act needs to be improved.”

Are you an underpaid employee? Shine Lawyers can help right wrong

If you believe you have been unjustly underpaid, it’s important to seek legal advice. Shine Lawyers’ Employment Law experts offer an initial consultation service at a highly competitive fixed fee. During this initial consultation, a member of our Employment Law team will take the time to understand your situation, answer any questions regarding your workplace rights and entitlements and provide you with tailored legal advice so you can take the best course of action.

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Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 27, 2020.

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