09/12/2020 Big penalties for wage theft and ‘part-time flex’ work in major industrial shake-up $5.5 million fines as the government cracks down on underpayment to help honest businesses. Unions welcomed the government’s move to raise penalties for underpayment but the new perma-flexi category got a cautious response from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which said it would oppose anything that took workers backwards. Attorney-General Christian Porter will also announce a free pay advice service for small businesses on Tuesday, with firms to be shielded from prosecution if the advice turns out to be wrong, to help employers take on staff without fear of underpayment claims. Mr Porter said the new criminal offence was intended to capture the worst cases of dishonest and systematic underpayment, not accidental errors by businesses baffled by complex pay rules. The Morrison government is planning a new industrial relations bill which will offer casual workers permanent jobs after a year of regular work. "The reason why this is so important is not just because we want workers to be paid properly... but for the overwhelming majority of businesses that do the right thing and pay their people properly, they get undercut by any competitor who doesn’t pay their people properly," Mr Porter said. But Mr Porter plans to outsource some of the most contentious parts of his industrial agenda to the Fair Work Commission, which will be asked to simplify pay rules in conjunction with unions and business. Five people on both sides of the industrial divide, who were not authorised to speak on the record, said Mr Porter would soon write to the commission to ask it to create simpler loaded rates that bundle up penalty rates and other allowances in the restaurant, clubs, hospitality and retail industries. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/big-penalties-for-wage-theft-and-part-time-flex-work-in-major-industrial-shake-up-20201207-p56las.html 2/6

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