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Victorian underpayments legislation disappointing

The Australian Industry Group has expressed disappointment with the Victorian State Government decision to pursue legislation imposing criminal penalties for wage underpayments.

The Victorian Head of the national employer association Ai Group, Tim Piper said: "Industry, and especially small businesses, are going through conditions they have never experienced before and could not have expected. Their ability to survive beyond our current crisis is causing them great concern. If businesses close down, the employees that lose their jobs as a result will suffer, particularly in this time of rising unemployment.

"It is unacceptable at any time for companies to deliberately underpay workers and penalties are in place under national legislation that are steep and were recently increased.

"It is misguided to add another unnecessary layer of state legislation on an issue already addressed federally, especially at a time when businesses are stressed and dealing with extreme levels of disruption due to COVID-19.

"Branding employers as criminals through loaded terms such as 'wage theft' is equally misguided. In most cases underpayments have been shown to be mistakes driven by an overly complex workplace relations system, and quickly repaid.

"The Government must ensure that this message does not play out as an anti-business message, as it currently seems. What the community needs now is for employers to be supported and encouraged – not unnecessarily targeted," Mr Piper said.

Further comment: Tim Piper – 0411 430 301