It is encouraging to see the penny starting to drop, with notice of some recent amendments to South Australia’s Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 filed in Parliament last week.
The amendments revise the definition of labour hire services provider by emphasising that a supply occurs, where the worker performs the work in the third person’s [client’s] business. Sub-clause 6(1) of the Bill will now read:
A person provides labour hire services if, in the course of conducting a business, the person supplies, to another person, a worker to do work in a business or commercial undertaking of the other person.
The amendment makes it clear that a tripartite arrangement involving agency (as provider), worker and third person is intended; and starts to align the legislation more closely to employment agency arrangements found in South Australia’s Payroll Tax Act and in the payroll tax legislation of NSW and Qld.
At the same time, however, the change signals a clear departure from the UK’s #gangmaster model, where the bipartite use form of gangmaster labour contracting is regulated along with the tripartite supply form, which is associated with traditional labour hire.
In many ways, that departure seems a pity; because a worker, who is used as part of a gang that is assembled by a provider of harvesting, chicken processing, cleaning, or trolley collection services (for example) may lose protection because it will not always be clear that they are working “in the business or undertaking of the other person” – i.e. the third party (client). They are more likely to be working in the business or undertaking of the provider.
What seems not to be recognised by either Queensland’s Act, or the South Australian Bill is that the type of exploitative conduct, which the legislation is designed to stop, extends across both different types of gangmastering.
The question was asked by Queensland Parliament’s Finance & Administration Committee during the public briefing on the legislation back in June:
“What is there to stop unscrupulous labour hire firms simply re-inventing themselves as unscrupulous labour contractors?”
The answer now, both in Queensland and more clearly so in South Australia, would appear to be, “Nothing”.
So, the penny may be starting to drop; but it still has a long way to fall.
That has to be a matter of concern, with the legislation proposed for commencement in South Australia on 1 March, 2018 and in Queensland on 16 April, 2018 and not a lot of time to do much about it.