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What is wage theft?

Wage theft happens when you don’t pay your employees the legal minimum hourly rate, overtime, penalty rates and entitlements which are set out in the modern award or Enterprise Agreement that applies to their role.

In many cases, greedy and unscrupulous employers commit wage theft deliberately as a way of stealing from their workers, but in some cases, it happens as a result of innocent mistakes, or because managers misunderstand the details of a particular modern award.

You can be audited by the Fair Work Ombudsman

Inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman can conduct an audit of your business at any time, and without giving you any notice.

They will check that you are paying the legal minimum rates of pay, including overtime and penalty rates, and any other entitlements that are set out in the modern award/s that apply to your employees.

They will also check that you are issuing correct payslips and keeping accurate records of the hours that your employees work and how much they are paid.


Employers who are found to not be paying their workers the legal minimum rates of pay can face on-the-spot fines, or in some cases, legal action and unfavourable exposure in the media.

Legal action can result in penalties of $12,600 per contravention for an individual and $63,000 per contravention for companies.

For serious cases of wage theft, where courts determine that it was deliberate and systematic, or if it has been repeated, the penalties are much higher – up to $126,000 per contravention for an individual and $630,000 per contravention for companies.

You will also be ordered by the court to back pay what you owe your employees, plus interest.

How we can help

If you are having trouble understanding the terms and conditions set out in a modern award, we can help.

Our specialist analysts have a detailed understanding of modern awards, and know how to apply overtime and penalty rates correctly, in addition to knowing about special allowances and entitlements that apply to particular industries.

If you are worried about wage theft, and that you may not be paying correct wages and entitlements, there is help available.

Please call our specialist team at Employwise today on

1800 00 WISE (1800 00 9473)

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