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Thematic Issue: Power, Workers and the Law

Criminalising ‘Wage Theft’ in Australia: A Proposed Regulatory Model


Irene Nikoloudakis and Stephen Ranieri

‘Wage theft’ is widespread in the Australian labour market, including ‘deliberate wage theft’ which occurs when an employer deliberately deprives an employee of their monetary employee entitlements. In 2020, Victoria and Queensland were the first Australian jurisdictions to criminalise this conduct. This article discusses how deliberate wage theft became criminalised in these states before undertaking a comparative analysis of both regimes. This analysis reveals that the Victorian model is significantly more advanced than the Queensland counterpart in terms of its ability to deter deliberate wage theft. The final substantive Part provides the first framework within the academic literature on how this conduct ought to be criminalised. It contends that a federal offence is required that criminalises deliberate wage theft. The offence must be enacted within a legislative regime that understands the common context in which this offending occurs and must be backed by robust enforcement and suitable civil recovery mechanisms.

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