1 June 2021

New rules to benefit Canberra's contract workers

| Karyn Starmer
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Team of cleaners working in modern open space office

Workers with casual or unstable employment have also been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Photo: File.

The ACT’s new Labour Hire Licence scheme, designed to secure fairer conditions for workers and weed out dodgy providers, comes into effect on 27 May 2021.

As part of a range of strict new measures, the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2020 will require all ACT labour-hire providers to hold a licence and demonstrate ongoing compliance with industry standards and workplace laws.

The new laws have come in response to unacceptable practices carried out by providers in the industry.

It is estimated there are up to 600 labour-hire providers operating in the ACT in industries such as construction, cleaning, health services, administration and IT.

“We want to make sure labour-hire workers receive the same workplace standards as other workers in the ACT,” Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety Mick Gentleman said.

READ MORE The end is in sight for dodgy labour hire contractors

He added that the long-term cap on APS staffing levels meant more Canberra workers than ever are on labour-hire contracts.

“Workers with casual or unstable employment have also been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, on top of being more vulnerable to poor working conditions.

“We’re committed to reducing exploitation of these workers, including underpayment, unauthorised wage deductions and unsafe working conditions.

“Labour Hire Licenses will encourage responsible employment practices and recognise legitimate providers. The scheme will be administered by WorkSafe ACT, which will issue licences and conduct compliance and enforcement activities to regulate the industry,” Mr Gentleman said.

Labour-hire providers will have six months to apply for and obtain their licence. From 27 November 2021, all labour-hire providers operating in the ACT must hold a Labour Hire Licence or they will be in breach of the legislation.

Incoming Labour Hire Licence Commissioner Jacqueline Agius, who is also ACT Work Health and Safety commissioner, said the new licence was a significant step in improving working conditions for labour-hire workers in the Territory.

“On 27 November 2021, we will begin taking compliance and enforcement action against labour-hire providers who are not licensed, and who are found not to be complying with workplace laws and standards,” Commissioner Agius said.

Work Health and Safety Commissioner Jacqueline Agius

Work Health and Safety Commissioner Jacqueline Agius is also taking on responsibilities as Labour Hire Licence Commissioner. Photo: Supplied.

Deputy Work Health and Safety Commissioner Amanda Grey said the new system will require labour-hire providers to demonstrate their ongoing compliance by completing a detailed application that will include providing audited financial statements.

The Commissioner’s office says they will also have access to information from the Fair Work Commission about any work, health and safety issues or breaches of agreements, and the adequate provision of workers compensation.

“We hope that through this scheme, people who work for labour-hire companies will be treated the same way as permanent employees, meeting the same standards and end the exploitation of those in unstable work.”

READ ALSO New ways for Canberra businesses to connect and get help

WorkSafe ACT will also introduce a publicly available licence register to enable businesses, workers and the community to know if they are dealing with a licensed labour-hire provider.

“People will be able to check if their provider is licensed and report any compliance issues for us to investigate.” Ms Grey said.

Information sessions for labour-hire firms will be held throughout Canberra during June. For more information visit WorkSafeACT

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Labour Hire Workers will not be safer under the new labour hire licensing scheme and they will continue to be exploited. I have zero faith in the statement by the minister “We’re committed to reducing exploitation of these workers, including underpayment, unauthorised wage deductions and unsafe working conditions” because currently WorkSafeACT cannot identify which companies hold void workers comp insurance, so with the same resources how will they tell the difference between a true labour hire company and a dodgy company that calls itself a labour hire company, but cannot ensure safe working conditions for the workers. It will end up being a great revenue raiser and a poor licensing scheme.

Why don’t we ask the incoming Commissioner if the workers in Step 4 in this post will be employed by a true labour hire company and whether or not that company can hold valid workers comp insurance? https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/part-3-6-bury-all-complexity-plutus-payroll-way-ian-lindgren/?trackingId=ic2uAOpPRLaF7HybaQkI8Q%3D%3D

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