Labour hire companies operating in Queensland may be subject to licensing and registration requirements in the near future, as the Queensland Parliament launches an investigation into the nature of these businesses and allegations of sham contracting.
The review, headed by the Finance and Administration Committee, will consider both the social and economic impacts of these labour hire arrangements, which are allegedly being abused to exploit vulnerable workers. The inquiry will also look into the “disturbing” claims that these agreements are being used to avoid workplace laws and other statutory obligations.
According to Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister, Curtis Pitt, “it is important for the inquiry to consider how to better protect workers’ interests and ensure employers who are doing the right thing aren’t forced to compete in an unfair market.” The Committee is expected to report to Parliament by June 30 2016. The referral motion transcript can be found here.
Similar inquiries are already underway in South Australia and Victoria, with reports expected in mid-2016. In addition to these, the Senate will deliver a report in February next year following its inquiry into temporary work visas and its effects on the labour market. As outlined in its interim report, there is a need for stronger enforcement measures and a sufficiently robust penalty regime that will tackle companies which are breaking workplace legislation. In light of the recent 7-Eleven scandal (where international students working for the company were being severely underpaid), it is clear that the need for reform is pressing.
Employers are reminded to take caution when employing staff through labour hire companies. Often these kinds of arrangements can result in a breach of the anti-sham contracting provisions and will attract significant financial penalties against the employer. If you have any queries or would like some guidance on this area of law, please call the NRA Hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).