Gen United
Wage Theft Guide 💸

Underpayment, wage theft, stolen wages – whatever you want to call it – is more common in Australia than you’d like to think. Two thirds of Australians do not receive their full salary. And young workers are some of the most vulnerable to being paid less than we’re entitled to.  

So we’ve put together a handy guide to make sure you’re paid what you’re worth. 

Here are all the steps you need to follow to work out and recover what you’re owed. Let’s begin! 👇

Step One:


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Underpayment occurs when your employer does not pay you the amount you are legally entitled to. 

If you think you’ve been underpaid here’s three things to do:

Find out how much you should be getting paid. We’ve developed a Know Your Wages section for you to quickly check what your pay should be.

Next, compare how much you’re being paid with how much you should be getting paid by reading your payslip. Our Payslip guide walks you through the ins and outs of these super important – and legally required – documents!

Follow the steps in the next videos to get your pay back👇


Step Two:

What is Wage Theft

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Wage theft refers to the illegal practice of employers failing to pay workers for all the work they’ve performed.

It encompasses various violations, such as:

Some employers pay below the legally mandated minimum wage.

Workers who complete overtime hours but don’t receive overtime pay.

Employers forcing workers to perform tasks while clocked out.

The most common misclassification is paying someone at the lowest Award level. Other examples include incorrectly classifying workers – also known as sham contracting – to avoid providing benefits like minimum wage or overtime pay.

Denying workers their legally required breaks.

Wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage workers. If you suspect wage theft, calculate your unpaid or stolen wages in the next section. Remember, you deserve fair compensation for your hard work! 😊

Think you can tell the difference between what is wage theft and what is fair? Take our quiz below to test your knowledge before moving on to our next section; How to Calculate Unpaid or Stolen Wages.

Step Three:

How to Calculate Unpaid or Stolen Wages

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There are 8 steps to follow to check if you’re being underpaid. See below:

Check to see if you are on an Award or an Enterprise Agreement. You need your Employment Contract to figure this out.
Go to our guide to learn about contracts.

Find your Award here and make sure to come back to complete the guide!

Are you Full time, Part time or Casual?

Check your level. This can be found on your payslip. We have made it easy to find your base rate of pay for a number of sectors young people work in here.

Gather evidence of how old you were at the time you were underpaid.

Collect any payslips, bank transfers etc. that shows money being paid from your employer to you. If you were paid cash, highlight any deposits you made with that cash into your bank account.

8. Now it’s time to calculate!

Use the calculator below to calculate the money you’re owed.

Step Four:

What To Do Once You’ve Calculated Your Underpayment

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So, you’ve done your calculations and have found you’ve been underpaid what do you do?

The first step you should take is to have a chat with your work colleagues, if you’ve been underpaid there’s a fair chance that they have been too. If they don’t know, then make them do the process you’ve just completed in the previous steps.

If you work on your own, it’s worth giving your union a call to get some advice. Unions deal with underpayment cases all the time for their members, and you may end up needing them further on in the process.

Once you’ve checked for underpayment, it’s now time to contact your boss.👇

TIP: Start record keeping!

Whether it’s a wage theft issue you’re facing or other workplaces like bullying or harassment, we strongly suggest keeping a detailed record of everything that happens including times and dates. Below is a example of how you can keep recording using your mobile Notes app. 

Step Five:

Contacting Your Boss

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It’s time to let your boss know that they have underpaid you. 

This can seem a little daunting, but rest assured that by following the previous steps and collecting evidence, you’re in the best position to get your money back.

The first thing you need to do is put your request in writing. We’ve developed a template letter for you to use straight away; simply fill out the blank spaces and you’re ready to send.

Often your boss will want to meet with you about your request so it’s important that you are confident and well prepared as possible.

  • If you have work colleagues that have the same issue, make sure the meeting is together with them. Don’t let your boss single you out.
  • Make copies of all of the evidence you have uncovered to give them to your boss
  • Ask to record the meeting and always take notes during the meeting.
  • If you are on your own, you should arrange to have a friend, or a trusted work colleague come with you as a witness.
  • If you are a union member you will be able to have support from the union in the meeting. 
  • You should be repaid either in your following wages or as a separate payment.
  • Ensure that any commitments to repay you are made in writing and that you have received them within a day of the meeting.

After this stage you should be done with the whole process and return to life at work as normal.

If your boss refuses to repay you, head to step six below👇

Step Six:

What if my boss refuses to pay me?

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You can’t be victimised 
It’s important to know your employer cannot penalise you for raising a workplace right. If your boss demotes or fires you, this could be ‘victimisation’ that contravene state and territory anti-discrimination laws.  

Get free Industrial advice 
If you are a member of your union, contact them to get help recovering your stolen wages. This is something unions deal with all the time  

Make a formal complaint 
You can make a formal complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman who can investigate and enforce payment. It’s best to get Industrial help for this. You can do that through your union.   

Take legal action 
If all else fails, you may be able to take your employer to court to recover stolen wages. You have a 6-year window to make a wage theft complaint.  

Your union can help with all of the above, and it’s the most sure-fire way to win your case. 

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