Govt call for comment on freeing up contractors, labour hire

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Govt call for comment on freeing up contractors, labour hire

The Federal Government has called for submissions on its proposed changes to workplace legislation covering independent contractors and labour hire arrangements.

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The Federal Government has called for submissions on its proposed changes to workplace legislation covering independent contractors and labour hire arrangements. 

In releasing a discussion paper on the subject, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, said the Howard Government had promised to create a new Independent Contractors Act to ‘protect the status of independent contractors and protect them from unnecessary regulation by workplace relations laws’.  

The Government supports a workplace relations framework that maximises choices for workers and businesses and minimises regulatory constraints.  

Main areas of reform in issue

The main areas of reform that the paper addresses include:  

  • preventing federal awards and agreements from containing clauses which restrict the use of independent contractors or labour hire workers, or which seek to put conditions on their engagement (for example, prescribing they have the same conditions as employees);
  • protecting independent contracting arrangements as commercial arrangements, not employment arrangements, under the law;
  • addressing State and Territory legislation which ‘deems’ independent contractors to be employees for the purpose of workplace relations regulation, including by overriding that legislation where appropriate; and
  • ensuring that ‘sham’ arrangements are not legitimised and preventing State and Territory legislation from impacting negatively on labour hire and contracting arrangements.

Questions posed

Among the questions the discussion paper asks for comment on are: 

  • Are there any State laws other than workplace relations laws (such as workers’ compensation, anti-discrimination or OHS laws) containing independent contractor provisions which the Commonwealth should consider over-riding?
  • Should the Federal Magistrates Court be given jurisdiction to review contracts?
  • Should a civil penalty provision be introduced in the WR Act applying to hirers who deliberately attempt to avoid employer responsibilities by seeking to establish a false independent contracting arrangement?
  • Should the labour hire industry be regulated to ensure high standards are met by all players?

The discussion paper also covers issues concerning labour hire workers, a growing area of employment in Australia. 

Further consultation with stakeholders will occur before the legislation is settled later this year.

AIG submission

AIG last week made a comprehensive submission on the issue to a House of Representatives Committee inquiring into independent contracting and labour hire arrangements. 

The submission noted the economic importance of the labour hire industry and its key role in providing labour flexibility to industry.  

AIG’s National IR Director Stephen Smith said the group was pleased parts of its submission to that Committee had been picked up in the Government’s discussion paper, particularly the removing of restrictions on employers of the use of contractors and labour hire.

‘If this is adopted in the legislation it will increase labour flexibility,’ Smith said.

He said AIG would consult with its members in different industry sectors before finalising its response to the discussion paper. 

Australian Business Limited

Australian Business Limited has welcomed the release of the discussion paper.   

Minna Knight, Senior Workplace Relations Policy Advisor at ABL, said contracts for service provide a flexibility, efficiency and productivity that is of real value to contractors, the economy and society as a whole.   

‘People should be able to choose whether to work as an employee, or set up their own business - and they should have the right to choose how best to lawfully staff their businesses without interference from persons or bodies who are not parties to those contracts,’ she said. 

Deadline for submissions

Submissions are due by 11 May.   

The paper is available at the Department of employment and Workplace Relations.  

Related

Independent contractor inquiry hears from unions, employers 

 

 

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