The vast majority of employers in Western Australia understand and either comply, or attempt to comply, with their legal obligations, whether these derive from legislation, an award or an industrial agreement.
The various forms of wage theft identified from the cases and case studies and submissions are predominantly:
- unpaid hours;
- non-payment of any wages, or allowances for work performed;
- underpayment of wages or entitlements;
- unauthorised or unreasonable deductions; and
- non-payment of superannuation.
Many underpayments do occur as a result of a lack of knowledge or genuine misunderstanding of employment obligations. However where a business has access to professional assistance in other areas of its operations, for example creating franchise agreements and registering trademarks, it is more difficult to accept when it comes to employment obligations, that a lack of knowledge or understanding explains the underpayment.
The reasons why systematic and deliberate underpayment of wages and entitlements is occurring include the lack of detection and enforcement of non-compliance, the intention of some employers to maximise financial return, the vulnerability of some workers, and a lack of knowledge of employment conditions by both workers and employers.
Western Australia is unique amongst the states in that it has retained a state industrial relations system for private sector employers and employees. The Inquiry’s terms of reference relate to all Western Australian workers and cover both the WA and national industrial relations systems.
The recommendations in this report include strategies to:
- raise the level of awareness of employment rights and obligations in WA among employers, employees and the community in those sectors where the likelihood of wage theft in employment covered by the WA industrial relations system in the private sector is high;
- provide a pathway for information, reporting wage theft and for seeking redress; and
- provide for greater detection and enforcement of underpayment of wages and entitlements.
They also identify matters for the state government to recommend to the Commonwealth government for its consideration.