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Small Business, Hospitality and Events – Wage Theft

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 23 November 2020

Tags: Wages

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I have another question, since you refuse to provide that information to the public. Wage theft has been a prominent issue in recent years, and many successful court cases have been taken against hospitality businesses, particularly restaurants. Migrant workers are especially vulnerable. This year Victoria passed the Wage Theft Bill 2020. What are you doing to prevent wage theft in your small business and hospitality portfolio, and is your Government considering making wage theft a crime in Tasmania, as it is in Victoria?

Ms COURTNEY - It is important that we have high compliance with all laws in our small businesses across Tasmania, no matter the sector they are in. We would expect all industry sectors to comply and all small businesses to comply with the laws as they pertain to those businesses. That is part of doing business well. Through the Government we can always assist businesses to make sure they have what they need.

Grants are currently available. We have $750 grants available for businesses to receive accounting advice, if they need advice, to understand what their obligations are under, either state or federal laws. The expert advice is through a registered professional, depending on the type of advice they are seeking. I encourage businesses to do that. We have provided support to peak bodies, such as the TCCI, the Small Business Council, and the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, this year and previously. We know the peak bodies work very closely to ensure that they have strong education campaigns for their staff.

Running a small business is a complicated process. A number of areas of law need to be complied with, and we will continue to support businesses.

Dr WOODRUFF - Do you accept, in an increasingly casualised workforce, that there are vulnerabilities, and there is big change in employment practices and that is why Victoria has taken this important step of recognising it as a crime? It would send a very strong message, rather than simply guidelines, and hoping. The vast majority of employers do the right thing but the ones that don't cannot easily be held to account. There are very difficult hoops for vulnerable workers to jump through. We are aware of a number of cases of people who have made representation to us. It is very difficult for them to act because they are at risk of losing their employment.

It is not just not understanding what the law requires - I accept it is hard for some business to work that through - it is fundamentally about people who actively chose to disregard the law and underpay workers.

Ms COURTNEY - I have high regard for Tasmania business owners. To a very large extent Tasmania business owners do the right thing. If they don't do the right thing then they should feel the full repercussions of that. We have supplied support to the TCCI so they can have industrial relations support for their membership base. It is important that businesses comply and I would expect Tasmania industry to do that.