This Article May Contain Sensitive Material
For any youthful readers of this piece, let me start by saying that we all know that the real Father Christmas lives at the North Pole with Mother Christmas, the Pixies, Rudolph and the other reindeer.
And we all know that all the friendly people who run around in costume – the Santas, Mothers Christmas (I hope that’s the correct plural), the Pixies, the Wise Persons, Shepherds, Angels, and pantomime camels – let’s call them the Christmas Talent – are just helping out. It could be a franchise, I’m not sure. I haven’t looked at it.
At least, I hope we all know that Christmas Talent is mostly pretend. Nevertheless, it’s always fun to see them because we know that when they start popping up in the stores, Christmas is not too far away.
Now here’s my concern.
Up until now, a lot of the Christmas Talent have been sourced through talent agencies. Up until now, that’s not been a problem in Victoria – but now it might be.
It might be a problem because if you’re supplying workers (let’s say Christmas Talent) to another person (let’s say a department store) to perform work in and as part of the store’s business or undertaking (seems likely), then you might need a labour hire licence.
This test is sometimes called an “integration test”. It’s not easy to apply, and it can depend on subtle, fact-sensitive inquiries that can only be determined authoritatively by a court. It can also have some pretty unexpected results.
Queensland & South Australia
Queensland and South Australia got this right because in those States talent agencies are subject to private employment agency regulation in addition to labour hire licensing.
So, Queensland and South Australia both created an exemption from the need to have a labour hire licence if you are acting solely as a private employment agency.
But there’s no similar exemption in Victoria. So, if you’re supplying a worker to do work in and as part of another person’s business or undertaking, you’ll possibly need a licence (unless you can bring yourself within one of the other exceptions).
Also in Victoria, if you’re sourcing and placing workers (let’s say Christmas Talent) with clients who are engaging them directly as independent contractors, and you continue to handle payroll or other aspects of the placement administration, you’ll possibly need a licence (unless you can bring yourself within one of the other exceptions).
Incorporated Christmas Talent
It gets even more complicated if your Christmas Talent is self-incorporated – i.e. they’re working through their own small company. That’s because their own small company is supplying the individuals who perform the work and therefore needs to hold a licence in its own right (unless it can bring itself within one of the exceptions).
Fortunately, there is an exception for small companies that have no more than two directors and only supply their directors who participate in management or share in the profits.
But that exception will only go so far. An exempt company couldn’t supply say, Three Wise Men – apart from whatever difficulties they might have in sourcing three wise men (old joke). Two would be OK provided they were both directors who participated in management or shared in the profits.
Likewise, a pantomime camel needs two people (front end and back end). That would be OK provided both ends were directors who participated in management or shared in the profits. But if one end gets sick – they’re going to end up with a two-legged camel unless they’ve got a labour hire licence. That’s because substitution requires a third person.
Same deal with Rudolph. And if you’re thinking of hiring the Von Trapp Family Carol Singers – better check their labour hire licence unless they’re incorporated and you’re only wanting two of them!
Although there’s an exemption for incorporated workers, it doesn’t extend to family partnerships or other unincorporated business structures.
Call Me a Grinch!
I could go on… But you’ll have the gist of it by now, and you can perhaps see the problem that arises when labour-hire licensing is introduced on a universal coverage basis without being targeted to the sectors where it’s really needed.
Did anyone think this would be an outcome when the scheme was proposed? Of course, they didn’t. The States were urged to adopt targeted schemes. The Victorian Forsyth Inquiry even recommended it. But those urgings and recommendations were mostly ignored.
So if you’re hiring Christmas Talent in Victoria this year or if you’re working as Incorporated Christmas Talent, whatever other checks you do, be sure to check that any necessary labour hire licence issues are covered.
Andrew C. Wood
 It can get tricky if you’re doing more than acting purely as a private employment agency – say handling payroll or administration.