Australia’s first licensing system for the labour hire industry has been proposed by the Queensland Government in their Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017. Media stories from several jurisdictions across Australia have shown that shonky practices are all too common in the labour hire industry, however this proposed legislation, along with the proven PCBU common law duty of care to labour hire workers, makes it imperative that all organisations using labour hire workers review their practices.
Some of the poor practices experienced in the labour hire industry include wage theft, tax evasion, failure to pay entitlements, poor and dangerous working conditions, and excessive and unsafe shift hours.
Queensland’s proposed Bill recently completed its public submission period and the review committee’s report has been released. The Bill proposes to introduce a regulation scheme to oversee the industry and reduce the opportunity for rorting and exploitation of workers, also supporting the ability of ethical operators to compete fairly.
Some of the proposed requirements for labour hire licence holders would be to report regularly on their operations and pass a ‘fit-and-proper-person test’, and penalties would include fines and criminal prosecution for offenders. It would also be unlawful for businesses to engage unlicensed labour hire providers.
While this proposed legislation has some way to go before being introduced (with the current Queensland opposition party dissenting to a state-based solution for nationally experienced labour hire issues) there is an increasing will across Australia to take some kind of regulatory action, and the Queensland Government appears to be intending to push ahead despite opposition.
Even before the possible introduction of the proposed Queensland legislation, there is an increasing likelihood of penalties to companies that engage labour hire firms, if they fail to adequately protect labour hire workers as required by common law duty of care principles and WHS legislation.
In a recent case, damages for injury to a labour hire worker employed by a third party to the company were awarded against the company, because they were deemed to have exercised “virtually complete control” over where labour hire workers worked, what tasks they performed and what equipment they used.
Given the common law duty reinforced by this recent judgement, and the possibility of new legislation tightening up regulations and requirements in the area of labour hire work, it would be judicious for organisations who utilise these types of workers to review their relevant management systems and practices.
If your organisation uses labour hire workers and you haven’t recently conducted an assessment or review of your labour hire risks, now is the time to do so.
Please contact QRMC for assistance with reviewing your labour hire risks and procurement processes