With all the talk about labour hire licensing, registration schemes and restrictive regulation of the employment services industry, it was gratifying to hear that the Employment Services Industry Code (“#ESICode“) has come a long way from the document that was first prepared in January 2015 – so much so that some commentators are now saying that the ESI Code is the most mature and coherent element of a national approach to tackling exploitation that has yet been offered anywhere.
Unlike the licensing restrictions and tougher penalties that are being proposed, the ESI Code fills in gaps in the level of professional and consumer knowledge about acceptable standards of service and conduct in the employment services market by establishing principles and stating positive outcomes that should be achieved if the principles are being observed by users and suppliers of employment services.
In doing so, the ESI Code helps to ensure that the employment services market is –
- more engaged in social dialogue about the risks and harm of exploitation and the promotion of acceptable business and social standards;
- more alert and better able to identify signs of exploitation and risks of potential exploitation;
- better able to educate and protect customers and work seekers against the risk of exploitation;
- more confident to resist and report conduct that may result in labour market distortion and exploitation; and
- more able to make a valuable contribution to the proper functioning of the labour market with which it interacts.
That is not the domain of restrictive licensing schemes or professional education programs that rarely reach much past their already compliant participants. What is needed is something that is more connected to the market and its participants; and at the moment, it would be hard to remain unconvinced that the ESI Code does not provide a more reliable and sustainable basis for industry improvement and protection against exploitation than the alternatives on offer.
Andrew C. Wood