New low-cost small claims jurisdiction for wage underpayments


A Shorten Labor Government will crack down on wage theft by giving workers who are ripped off an efficient and effective avenue to reclaim unpaid wages.

We have seen too many examples of systemic wage theft, but lengthy and costly court proceedings often prevent and deter workers from recovering wage underpayments.

It shouldn’t be too hard and it shouldn’t be too costly to get what you are owed for a day’s work.

A Shorten Labor Government will make it easier to recover wage underpayments with a new low-cost small claims jurisdiction to sit alongside the Fair Work Commission.

The new jurisdiction will be designed so that most claims can be resolved in a single day. It will also be a one-stop shop – able to mediate claims, but also able to make and enforce orders for repayment of wages.


  • Individual claims up to $100,000 will be able to be brought to members of the jurisdiction. Claims brought forward by groups of workers against a single employer will also be permitted.
  • Members will adjudicate on claims, and will be available for applicants in remote and regional areas, including by video conferencing.
  • Employer groups and unions will also be able to act on behalf of their members if requested to do so.
  • To increase the capability of workers and employers to present their cases to the small claims jurisdiction, Labor will expand the Community Engagement Grants Program, currently only utilised by community legal centres, by an additional $3.7 million per annum.

Funding for this commitment has been included in Labor’s Fair Go Budget Plan, available at