Once upon a time, unlawful termination carried a penalty of up to $10,000.

Under the Fair Work Act, that increased to a maximum penalty of $33,000 for a corporation, and individuals “involved in” a contravention faced a penalty of up to $6,600.

But it just got a whole lot worse: the maximum penalty for a contravention is now $51,000 for a corporation, and an individual can get pinged to the tune of $10,200 per contravention.

How so, you ask? Well, the value of a penalty unit for the purposes of federal legislation has increased. It’s jumped from $110 per unit, to a whopping $170 per unit.

So it’s not just unlawful termination that got a whole lot more expensive. Any breach of the Act, including the National Employment Standards, or a breach of a modern award, is subject to the same penalty hike.

The new penalty unit value commenced on 28 December 2012 and will now be assessed every 3 years. Prior to this jump, the value of the Commonwealth penalty unit had been $110 since 1997. We’re told the increase reflects increases to CPI occurring since 1997.

Little consolation, but the NSW penalty unit remains at $110, unless the contrary intention appears.