New law says 'apparent' employer must pay Qld outworkers' wages

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New law says 'apparent' employer must pay Qld outworkers' wages

Clothing outworkers in Queensland will be able to claim payment from the nearest identifiable person - the 'apparent employer' -  in the 'chain' of those contracting out the work, under legislation just passed in the Queensland Parliament.

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Clothing outworkers in Queensland will be able to claim payment from the nearest identifiable person - the 'apparent employer' -  in the 'chain' of those contracting out the work, under legislation just passed in the Queensland Parliament. 

The 'apparent employer' can then claim the money from the end receiver of the clothing in the Industrial Relations Commission, if the receiver refuses to pay. 

Unpaid wages and superannuation

Queensland Minister for Employment, Training and Industrial Relations, Tom Barton told Parliament a key component of the amended Industrial Relations Act is the introduction of provisions to assist clothing outworkers to recover unpaid wages and superannuation contributions.  

He said the provisions with respect to wage recovery are modelled on statutory schemes in force in New South Wales and Victoria.  

'A special process for wage recovery is considered to be necessary for clothing outworkers because of the unique characteristics of the industry in which they find themselves,' Barton said. 

'These characteristics put outworkers at a special disadvantage. In particular, there is widespread evidence that complex contracting arrangements are used in the industry to obscure the identity of participants in the contracting chain who have legal obligations, such as employers.

'These arrangements make it easier for persons to evade their legal responsibilities, such as paying proper wages to employees.  

'The disadvantage caused to outworkers by these arrangements is compounded by the fact that the majority of outworkers in Queensland are from non-English speaking backgrounds (predominantly Vietnamese), who have greater difficulty in understanding their rights as employees.

'The combined result of these factors is that clothing outworkers often face considerably greater obstacles to recovering their lawful entitlements than other employees.'  

Service of claims

Barton said the Bill puts the primary responsibility for identifying the legal employer of an outworker on the participants in the contracting chain, rather than on the outworker.

It achieves this by allowing outworkers to serve a claim for unpaid wages and superannuation on the person whom the outworker believes is his or her employer (called the 'apparent employer' in the Bill).  

The outworkers' claim must be supported by a statutory declaration. The apparent employer will remain liable for the amount claimed unless he/she can show that the work was not done, the amount claimed is incorrect or that the amount has already been paid. 

The claims procedure will apply to all participants in the contracting chain other than a person whose sole connection with the clothing industry is the sale of clothing by retail.

'The claims procedure will thus entitle the outworker to serve a claim upon the principal manufacturer who ultimately receives the finished work,' Barton said. 

'The apparent employer will be able to refer the claim to the person for whom the apparent employer reasonably believes the work was done.  

'If that person does not accept liability, the apparent employer may recover any amount paid to the outworker from the outworker's legal employer, through proceedings in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) or Industrial Magistrates Court.'  

The Bill also provides for a mandatory code of conduct to govern the industry, if this is thought to be necessary in the future. Click for the Bill  and/or the explanatory notes.

Related

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Fed award overrides contract

 

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