In the lead up to the election, Growcom remains concerned about the wide ranging remit of the new Labour Hire legislation.
Growcom has taken a firm and public stance against worker exploitation and acknowledges that labour hire providers continue to be a major issue.
That said, the new labour hire regulations run the risk of capturing a large range of labour arrangements that are legitimate and cause no problems, tangling ethical employers up in additional regulation and drawing attention away from the criminal element who do not seek to operate within the law.
Growcom has consistently argued for labour hire regulation that is national and targeted towards those who currently do the wrong thing. We already have wide ranging workforce legislation in Australia and the main issue is lack of enforcement.
The recently enacted legislation defines labour hire very broadly and runs the risk of capturing growers under the Act. For example, the following models of employment all fall within the definition of labour hire:
- the traditional understanding of a labour hire business (i.e. a business employing employees and providing those employees to work on a farm)
- labour hire arrangements between a corporate group (i.e. one company employs all staff and hires those employees out to a related company that might own the land)
- non-traditional labour hire arrangements where a grower might own land in one company (that might be the grower’s super fund) and employs staff in another company (the business entity company)
- Growers ‘loaning’ workers to another entity to ensure the staff member has consistent employment during quiet periods.
If a grower uses a labour hire provider who is not registered, the grower faces a penalty of $378,450 for a company and $130,439.10 for an individual for each breach.
A person or company that provides labour hire without being licenced is exposed to the same penalty amount.
It will be disappointing if this legislation becomes yet another red tape burden for growers without actually dealing with the underlying issue of worker exploitation.