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Wage 'theft' might become a crime

Published 21 May 2023

The bill is looking to criminalise wage 'theft' by employers and it is currently going through Parliament.

The Crimes (Theft by Employer) Amendment Bill is set to amend the Crimes Act 1961 to make employers not paying employees their wages or potentially making unauthorised deductions, a criminal offence, if found guilty and convicted.

This type of legislation is already in force in the states of Queensland and Victoria in Australia, although is a very much watered-down version in terms of penalty actions. The proposal has the power to imprison individuals for 12 months and fine companies up to $30,000.00 whereas in Victoria in Aussie it's up to 10 years imprisonment for individuals, or a fine of up to $1,090,440.00 for a business.

The idea being that the current laws and enforcement options of the Courts and Authority do not have the teeth required to stop the worst offenders and recidivist offenders like the infamous 'liquor baron' Ravi Arora dubbed as NZ's worst employer.

Such a law could however potentially make it far more challenging to undertake a deduction from wages even in valid cases and has the potential to foreseeably expose the employer to criminal liability, or at least the threat of such risk. The Wages Protection Act 1983 and 40 years of case law makes it very clear on how a deduction is to be actioned, the advent of this may give miscreant employees more inptus to refuse to allow deductions in legitimate cases.