If Preparing Your Victorian Labour Hire Licence Application Seems Like Wrestling an Octopus…

Detail of Poseidon Statue and fountain , Piazza Navona, Rome, It“Eight is a lot of legs, David!” (from “Love Actually” (2003)

…why not come along to WorkAccord’s advanced workshop Vic Labour Hire Licensing: Up-Close & Personal – Prepare Your Application on 3 May 2019?

Learning objectives

  • Gain confidence in managing the application process
  • Identify the information you will need and prepare an information capture plan
  • Evaluate your compliance history
  • Avoid leaving yourself open to refusals and objections
  • Develop an application preparedness strategy you can take back to the office.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Andrew C. Wood

Victorian Labour Hire Licensing: Managing Adverse Outcomes

Medieval Relief Of St George And The Dragon

“By George! I think he’s got it. Must have been to the Up-Close & Personal Masterclass!”

With Victoria’s labour hire licensing scheme starting on 29 April, some industry participants may be contemplating the possibility of adverse outcomes – either for themselves or even with the aim of creating them for someone else – Heaven forbid!

In this, the second masterclass in WorkAccord’s inaugural “Up-close & Personal” series, I’ll be discussing in detail the range of adverse outcomes, their likely causes, and how to manage them.

Learning objectives

  • Understand the scope and effect of “adverse outcomes”
  • Learn how to formulate an objection and how to respond to one
  • Identify where objections might come from – and develop a counter-strategy
  • Discover the alternatives to outright refusal of an application
  • Understand licence conditions and how they can be used to your advantage
  • Learn how to get information and challenge adverse decisions and conditions
  • Plan for a “worst case” scenario.

You can find out more about the masterclass at our Eventbrite registration page.

I hope to see you there!

Andrew C. Wood

What is the True Reach of Victoria’s Labour Hire Licensing Scheme?

I’ve said I’m excited at being invited to present WorkAccord’s Up-close & Personal masterclass and advanced workshop series on the Victorian labour hire licensing scheme. 

That’s because we’re finally going to get a chance to attack some of the harder questions, as we discover where cracks are likely to be found – and how to plan for them.

Here’s just a few:

  • What does it really mean to “supply a worker”?
  • When does a worker work “in and as part of the business or undertaking” of a host?
  • Is this a different test from the integration test formulated by the Federal Court in On Call Interpreters and Translators Agency Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (No 3) [2011] FCA 366?
  • If not, will it ever be possible to “supply” an independent contractor within the meaning of s. 7 of the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic)?
  • Is the on-hire of independent contractors dealt with under some other provision of the Act?
  • What happens if the worker is incorporated?
  • What is the nature of the s.9 “obligation” to pay a worker for the performance of the work?
  • Does anyone have such an “obligation” if the individual receives payment on some other basis – e.g. a directors fees for working in their own company, or as the beneficiary of a discretionary trust with an incorporated trustee?
  • How does all this play out in labour contracting chains and service networks?

These aren’t the sort of questions that can be addressed in a brief overview. They’re questions that need to be asked, notwithstanding comments about “clever lawyers” (as though that’s a bad thing) that I heard made when I attended the public briefings.

So, that’s why we’re having a masterclass.

And that’s why I’m excited.

I hope to see you there!

Andrew C. Wood

Businessman & Newspaper

 

 

 

 

Victorian Labour Hire Licensing: Up-Close & Personal

Businessman with magnifying glass reading documentsI’m excited to be presenting a series of three masterclasses and advanced workshops when we will look in detail at the Victorian Labour Hire Licensing Scheme.

Many will have already gained an overview of the scheme but will still have unanswered questions about it. Some will need to delve into the detail to find where the cracks and flaws may appear. Others might be wanting real practical help to prepare their applications and will need to address some hard questions.

That’s what we’ll be doing. You can find out more about the series on our Eventbrite registration pages:

  • Masterclass #1 Reach and Limitations (23/04/19 from 9.00 am to 12:00 pm)
  • Masterclass #2 Managing Adverse Outcomes (23/04/19 from 1.00 pm to 4:00 pm)
  • Workshop #3 Prepare Your Application (3/05/19 – morning and afternoon sessions)

I hope to see you there.

Andrew C. Wood

Don’t forget to lodge your Qld labour hire licensing reports. Failure could result in suspension … or worse!

Young thoughtful businessman making a call and writing notesFive licences are presently noted on the Queensland labour hire licence register as having been suspended.  It is an offence to use a labour hire licence holder whose licence is suspended. The offence attracts penalties including fines up to approximately $400,000 for a corporation ($135,000 for an individual) and 3 years imprisonment. Similar penalties apply to a labour hire services provider who supplies labour hire services whilst suspended.

Suspensions can occur for a number of reasons, including failure to make periodic reports required under s. 31of the Act or providing incorrect or misleading information in a report.

A quick review of suspensions currently noted on the register indicates that all of the suspended licenses were issued before 15 June 2018. That means that they would all have reached and passed their first reporting period.

Under the scheme, licence holders’ first reporting period covers the six-month period starting on the date their licence was granted. For example, if a licence was issued on 15 June 2018, six months ticked over on 15 December.

Licensees have 28 days after the end of each reporting period to submit their report. So, if a licence holder’s first six-monthly reporting period came up on 15 December 2018, the report had to be lodged by 13 January 2019.

Although the regulator, Labour Hire Licensing Queensland (LHLQ) has not yet published any statement of reasons for the suspensions, a fair inference to draw might be that the suspensions currently noted on the register could be related to failure to meet the reporting requirements.

Some support for drawing that inference can be found in LHLQ’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy, which explains that key enforcement strategies include:

Inspector audits to check applicants or licensees are compliant with the Act in terms of being fit and proper persons, six monthly reporting requirements and any conditions imposed on their licence.

Whilst LHLQ does take into account the seriousness of any breach, its Compliance and Enforcement Policy makes clear that it:

…does not regard the following as trivial:

  • alleged offences regarding unlicensed providers
  • entering into arrangements with unlicensed providers
  • entering into avoidance arrangements
  • failure to report, particularly where there is evidence that the person knowingly contravened their obligations or did not properly discharge their duty to ascertain their obligations.

If my hunch that the current suspensions may be related to reporting contraventions is right, we can expect to see more suspensions over the coming weeks. So, don’t get caught. Check the issue date on your licence and make sure that you get your reports in on time. If you need help, ask for it.

In the meantime, here’s a useful link to the regulator’s guide to reporting.

Andrew C. Wood

The Recruiters’ Casebook and WorkAccord Get Together for a Free Short Webinar Series

The Recruiters’ Casebook and WorkAccord are getting together to present two free webinars as they test their new webinar platform.

We’d love you to join us and give us your feedback.

Webinar 1

Competition & Consumer Law Brief – The New Playing Field.

Friday, 21 September 2018, 10.00 am to 10.30 am AEST.

Modern Universal Business Concept Icon SetAs job-based employment seemingly evolves toward job-based entrepreneurship in the freelance, contracting and gig economies, it’s becoming increasingly important for recruitment, contracting and staffing businesses to keep up to date with competition & consumer law developments that impact their sector and their incorporated workers.

In this free session,  Andrew C. Wood will present a short briefing to business owners & managers, consultants and contractors about the role of the ACCC in creating and supporting a fair and level playing field.

Andrew will cover the following topics:

  • Authorisations and protective notifications
  • Banning orders, penalties & remedies
  • Cartel prohibitions
  • Collective bargaining and the proposed small business class exemption
  • Misleading job ads
  • Statutory guarantees and unlawful attempts at exclusion
  • Unconscionable conduct
  • Unfair standard form, small business contracts
  • Unsolicited services (and claims for payment).

Register Now

 

Webinar 2

Transaction to Transformation

Friday, 28 September 2018, 10.00 am to 10.30 am AEST.

Modern Universal Business Concept Icon SetThe “factory model” of services production and supply, based on efficiency in repeating similar transactions has been disrupted by Artificial Intelligence. Astute suppliers in the recruitment, contracting & staffing industry are already talking about a major shift from transaction to transformation.

But what does that look like? How is it managed? How is progress measured? How is it supported by business models and the terms and conditions that underpin them? And is the transaction still important?

In this free introductory level webinar that has been designed for recruitment, contracting & staffing agency business owners and managers, we will begin to explore some of these questions and set a pathway for future discussion.

Register Now

Please send a shout out to your friends and colleagues. We look forward to seeing you there!

MegaMan

 

Andrew C. Wood

Collective Bargaining in the Freelance, Contracting and Gig Economies

Young people work in modern office.As job-based employment seemingly evolves toward job-based entrepreneurship in the freelance, contracting and gig economies, we may soon witness the emergence of new models of workforce organisation and worker representation. That is, if the ACCC’s plan to grant a class exemption allowing small businesses to bargain collectively with their customers and suppliers goes ahead.

Collective bargaining, in this context, involves two or more competitors getting together to negotiate with a supplier or customer (the “target”) about terms, conditions and/or prices.

It is distinguished from bargaining under the Fair Work Act in that the parties who get together are not employees; they are actual business competitors.

They include many contractors and freelancers, working in the on-hire and gig environments.

They may be technology contractors, medical locums, project managers, professional science & engineering contractors, designers & creatives, book-keepers, contract cleaners, contract logistics operators, or translators.

Indeed, they may be any small business that undertakes professional, skilled, or trade work that is done by workers who perform their work in, and as part of, their own businesses.

Recruitment, contracting, and staffing agencies would therefore do well to follow this new development closely; and begin to think about the challenges and opportunities that the ACCC’s proposal presents.

For example, what might an on-hire or IT contracting agency expect from a scheme that allows a pool of  its IT contractors to bargain collectively with it on price, terms and conditions of engagement?

Who might represent them? Should the current restriction on trade union representation apply? If it did, might we witness the emergence of contractor “guilds” that would be able to operate outside the Fair Work bargaining framework?

How might the ACCC’s concept of joint procurement bargaining play out, if it allowed that same pool of IT contractors to bargain simultaneously with their IT contracting agency and its clients?

What might small recruitment agencies, working in the creative or medical locum industries, gain from being able to bargain collectively with clients on price, terms and conditions of supply – without the need for any notification or authorisation?

What might the competition impact be on medium and larger businesses, who fall outside the scope of the class exemption; or who may be the targets of collective bargaining?

How might the role of industry associations develop to support members looking for collective bargaining resources and solutions?

These are just a few questions that recruitment, contracting, and staffing agencies (and their industry associations) might now be asking. No doubt there are many others.

The ACCC would like to hear about them by 21 September 2018.

 

Andrew C. Wood

ACCC Proposed Class Exemption to Allow Agribusiness Collective Bargaining: Unintended Labour Market Consequences?

Strawberry Harvest in Central CaliforniaEarlier this year, I was asked to outline 10 steps that providers and users of labour hire services could take to prepare for the anti-competitive labour hire licensing schemes that were about to start in South Australia and Queensland (and more recently, Victoria).  

It now looks like step #9  – Anticipate and adjust to changes in the market – may prove especially important if the ACCC’s plan to grant a class exemption allowing agribusinesses to negotiate collectively with their suppliers goes ahead.

Step #9 highlighted the importance of appreciating that:

  • not everyone would get a licence;
  • this would leave gaps in the market, especially in regional areas, that would require new networked services supply models; and
  • consolidation and rationalisation would occur around licensed providers, giving them  increased market power and a significant market advantage over licence applicants, many of whose applications are still pending.

The ACCC’s plan to allow a collective bargaining class exemption would “provide a ‘safe harbour’, so businesses that qualify can collectively bargain without the risk of breaching competition law”. 

That would significantly offset any increase in market power or competitive advantage that a licenced provider might obtain.

Buyers and sellers of labour hire services should now be thinking strategically about how that offset could be harvested to best advantage to produce service and pricing models, which do not simply drive prices down again to levels that compromise the ability of reputable labour hire providers to meet safety net, decent work, and accommodation standards.

The relationship between sustainable business modelling, bargaining, and labour exploitation was beginning to be explored in the Fels Wage Fairness Panel Inquiry into the 7-Eleven Franchise.

Although there is still much work to be done, the ACCC’s plan is likely to advance the discussion of that relationship … but only if labour hire, contracting, and staffing services providers join the debate.

The ACCC is inviting submissions on its proposed plan by 21 September 2018.

 

Andrew C. Wood

 

 

 

Preparing Stormy Labour Hire Licence Challenges in the “Sunshine State”

dog with an umbrella going for a walkIn an earlier post, I forecast that a rough “Storm Season” could be brewing for some Queensland labour hire providers, if indications coming from Labour Hire Licensing Queensland and the Hon. Grace Grace MP, Minister for Industrial Relations are anything to go by.

In this post, we look at some essential preparations that providers can make in order to meet or avoid a worst case scenario.

If your agency is one of the 500 or so, whose application for a labour hire licence seems to have been held up; or if you’ve been issued with a licence but are facing objections, or have concerns about whether a licence may be vulnerable to suspension or cancellation either because of incorrect information (e.g. about the use of visa workers) supplied with the application, or because of non-compliance with one of the myriad of relevant laws – it might be worth taking a few steps to prepare for what could turn out to be a worst case scenario.

These are not nice topics to have to write about. Many might worry that “rocking the boat” could put them “on the regulator’s radar”. However, it’s sometimes good to address them head on, and to briefly outline some of the preparations that you might begin to make.

Finding out what’s going on with the delays

One of the worst things about delayed applications is that you won’t necessarily know what’s happening. Rumours abound, and speculation runs rife. It is often best to try to get to the facts – or at least as many of them as you can discover.

Broad inquiries

At a broad level, the problem might be addressed by having your industry association raise the issue of general delay with the regulator and seek information about why the scheme does not seem to be working as smoothly as planned.

It would be reasonable to ask the regulator for some general information about the results of its State-wide audits, conducted back in May and June 2018. So far it hasn’t said a lot about those.

Your members of Parliament might similarly ask questions and seek information from the responsible Minister.

Information obtained, at that broad level, might not quite put your mind at ease; but it should yield some context that will help you to plan your next steps. Importantly, it will put the providers’ interest “in the game”, without singling out any particular applicant or licence holder.

Provider-specific Inquiries

At a provider-specific level, the lack of information can often be addressed by an exploratory call to the regulator.

You might point out that the regulator’s website says that it anticipates that licence application decisions will be made within 28 business days from the date the application was lodged. You could (politely) ask whether there is any reason (that the regulator can tell you) why your application seems to be taking longer. You could ask when you might expect to receive a decision.

If there are particular circumstances that require an answer sooner rather than later – e.g. an upcoming tender – you could let the regulator know about that, so that you are not disadvantaged against other tenderers by having your application still undecided.

Right to Information (Freedom of Information) and Information Privacy

In some cases, you might consider exercising your rights to obtain information under the Right to Information Act  or the Information Privacy Act.

You can ask the regulator how you would go about doing that. You might even ask the regulator whether it would consider giving you informal access, which is usually simpler and faster than making a formal application.

Queensland’s Office of the Information Commissioner provides a great resource on Busting Myths about the Right to Information. It’s worth reading if you want to know more about the process.

Even if you make a formal application, you might not get every piece of information because some information may be exempt – e.g. some complaint information; but if there are objections or complaints in the wind, you may be able to find out the general nature of them and then begin to prepare your case to address them – either upon inquiry by the regulator; or by correction procedure, if the information is personal information; or upon formal internal or external review (discussed below).

Dealing with adverse decisions

Information Notices

If you receive an adverse decision – e.g. a suspension or cancellation decision; a licence refusal; or the imposition of adverse conditions – you should receive an “information notice” given by the Chief Executive under the Act.

An information notice  is a notice stating—

  • the decision; and
  • the reasons for the decision; and
  • that the person has a right to have the decision reviewed under s. 93; and
  • how, and the period within which, the person may apply for the review.

The information notice will provide a good place to start, because it should outline the matters you will have to address.

QCAT Information Notice

A different type of information notice, called a QCAT Information Notice, must be given by the Chief Executive, when providing a decision after review under s.97 of the Act.

Receipt of a QCAT Information Notice triggers the right to appeal to QCAT (Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal) under s. 98.

s. 93 Review

The Act provides for decisions of the Chief Executive to be reviewed internally by someone other than the person who made the original decision.

Review applications have to be made in the approved form and within 28 days after being given the Information Notice.

When applying for review, you should set out your grounds and state the decision that you want the Chief Executive to make. That becomes important later on, when the Chief Executive has to decide whether to give you a QCAT Information Notice, in case you should want to appeal further.

Obviously, the strength of your review submission depends on the extent of your preparation and the quality of the advice and support you have received in preparing your submission. This is an area where you might do well to have your legal support team well prepared in advance.

s. 96 Stay of Decision

A “stay” is an order that suspends a decision and stops it coming into effect, while review rights are pursued.

Merely applying for a review of the Chief Executive’s decision, or appealing from a review decision, does not stay the decision.

To get a stay, you would have to apply IMMEDIATELY to QCAT.

Being in a position to apply immediately, probably requires you to have done some advance preparation and to have your legal support team well briefed so that they can move quickly.

You might need to ask QCAT to stay the decision for long enough to allow a review decision to be made by the Chief Executive under s.97 (see below) plus additional time to enable an appeal to QCAT to be concluded in case the s.97 review decision is adverse, and you wish to appeal under s. 98 (see s.98 appeals below).

S. 97 Review Decision

The Chief Executive, must, within 21 days after receiving a review application:

  • review the original decision;
  • make a review decision; and
  • give notice of the review decision (a “review notice”).

If the Chief Executive does not give a review notice within the 21 days, the Chief Executive is taken to have made a review decision confirming the original decision.

That would mean that you should track the 21 days very carefully.

s. 98 Appeals

If the review decision is not the decision you wanted, you should receive a QCAT Information Notice.

You then have 28 days from the day when you were notified of the review decision to commence your appeal.

A QCAT Information Notice must state the following—

  • the decision;
  • the reasons for the decision;
  • you have a right to have the decision reviewed by the tribunal;
  • how, and the period within which, you may apply for the review;
  • any right you have to have the operation of the decision stayed under s. 22 of the QCAT Act.

Just keep in mind that failure to comply with those requirements does not invalidate the decision.

Failure to make any decision at all – s. 22 Judicial Review Act.

Occasionally, a decision maker might fail to make a decision within the time specified in the Act which confers decision making authority; or if no time frame is specified, within a reasonable time.

What is a reasonable time, depends on all the circumstances.

The Act does not stipulate a timeframe within which the Chief Executive is to make a licence application decision. But remember that the Regulator anticipates being able to make decisions within 28 business days of receiving the application for a licence. That would tend to suggest that there may be some licence applicants, who might now be wondering what their rights are if the Chief Executive fails to make a decision within a reasonable time.

Under s. 22 of the Judicial Review Act 1991 (Qld), a person who is aggrieved by the failure of the Chief Executive to make a decision can apply to the Court for a statutory order of review in relation to the failure to make the decision on the ground that there has been unreasonable delay in making the decision.

The order will not confer the licence; it will merely direct the Chief Executive to make a decision. However, the Court can additionally make:

  • an order declaring the rights of the parties in relation to the making of the decision; and
  • an order directing any of the parties to do, or to refrain from doing, anything that the Court considers necessary to do justice between the parties.

Other remedies

In any given case, there may also be other remedies that might be available.

Hopefully, you will not need them. But it is always a good idea to canvass them with your legal support team; and to do so well in advance of the time when you might need them so that you can move quickly and with confidence.

 

Andrew C. Wood

Rough Storm Season Brewing for Queensland Labour Hire Providers?

Multiple eletric lightning strikes over river in BrisbaneOne might wonder what sort of Storm Season could be brewing for Queensland’s labour hire providers.

When Queensland’s labour hire licensing scheme commenced on 16 April 2018, many labour hire providers jumped right in and lodged their applications. Since that time, approximately 2,400 applications have been approved, with a further 600 still waiting for approval as at 10 August 2018.

What’s interesting about those 600 pending applications is that about 500 of them date back to the lodgement cut-off date of 15 June 2018. Two hundred go back as far as April and May. Nine of them date back to Day 1 of the scheme.

A quick scan of the pending applications list also suggests a significant representation from amongst labour hire providers to the horticulture and farming sectors.

Is this “normal”?

Labour Hire Licensing Queensland’s website advises:

How long does it take?

Once you have made your application and paid your licence fee it is anticipated a decision on your application will be made within 28 business days.[i]

So, why is it taking so long for these applications to be processed?

Let’s have a look at what might be going on behind the scenes.

On 4 May 2017, just three weeks after the scheme commenced, Labour Hire Licensing Queensland (LHLQ) issued a bulletin, highlighting problems it had identified with several applications and signalling its intention to take action on a number of complaints.

We have identified several applications in which we suspect inaccurate information has been supplied about the supply of visa workers.

We work closely with other State and Commonwealth Government agencies to ensure the accuracy of information received, including the Fair Work Ombudsman, Australian Border Force (Home Affairs), Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, WorkCover Queensland, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and local councils.

Labour hire providers must ensure that they are providing accurate information in their applications to enable us to properly assess their suitability to obtain a licence. Strong penalties apply for providing false and misleading information. We will suspend licences obtained as a result of the provision of incorrect or misleading information, and will cancel licences granted to those who are no longer fit and proper persons.

We will also be acting on a number of complaints received from the public about unscrupulous labour hire operators.[ii]

Now let me be perfectly clear about this – just because an application has not been processed and has been outstanding since April or May does NOT mean that the applicant is an “unscrupulous labour hire provider”, or that it has provided incorrect information in connection with its application.

Applicants on the pending application “Green List”, who lodged their applications on or before the 15 June cut-off date, can continue to provide labour hire services until a decision is made and the application is removed from the list. If the licence is granted, they will move to the register of licence holders. If it is refused, they have review and appeal rights; and can apply for a stay whilst the decision is reviewed.

However, on the same day, LHLQ issued a second bulletin in which it announced its intention to conduct a visitation program for “labour hire providers, users and workers to provide information about their obligations and rights under the new laws”.

Somewhat ominously, the bulletin concluded:

During the visits, we’ll conduct audits to ensure applicants and licensees have provided accurate information in their applications and have kept the required evidence to support their declarations (e.g. fit and proper person declaration).[iii]

Shortly thereafter in May, and without any further fanfare, LHLQ suspended the licence of one provider – RJP Contracting Service Pty Ltd. The reasons were not published at the time.

Finally, on 7 August 2018,  Industrial Relations Minister, Grace Grace, confirmed that RJP’s licence had been cancelled. The reason stated was that RJP:

…was found to have provided false information about the supply of visa workers on their application and had also breached the Fair Work Act 2009.

The Minister continued:

Labour hire providers should be aware that if you do the wrong thing, you’ll be found out and you’ll be dealt with accordingly,

We make no apologies for taking a tough stance against dodgy operators or unlicensed operators, who don’t do the right thing by their workers.[iv]

The decision to cancel RJP’s licence may yet be overturned on review or appeal. That matter should not be regarded as having been concluded and it still has some way to run.

But why has there been only one suspension and cancellation if the problems were as widespread as LHLQ indicated back in May? And what might LHLQ’s decision forecast for other providers?

On one optimistic view, RJP was the only provider to have come unstuck in the LHLQ audit sweep.

On another, it looks like LHLQ could be running a sort of test case to see how well its processes work, getting all its ducks lined up in readiness for more refusals, suspensions and cancellations to come.

And if that is the case, some Queensland labour hire providers could be in for a rough Storm Season come November.

 

Andrew C. Wood

 

[i] https://www.labourhire.qld.gov.au/i-provide-labour-hire/licensing

[ii] https://www.labourhire.qld.gov.au/news-media/news/correct-information

[iii] https://www.labourhire.qld.gov.au/news-media/news/compliance

[iv] https://www.labourhire.qld.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/labour-hire-provider-loses-license-operate-queensland