The Victorian Government recently introduced the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 to ensure labour hire workers have the same rights and protections as other workers.
Who are labour hires workers?
Labour hire workers, also known as agency workers, are those employed by a labour hire agency (agency) on a contract basis to perform work for a host company (host).
For a labour hire worker, although they are legally employed by the agency, their boss or supervisor is the person they report to during their employment with the host.
The host pays the agency and the agency then pays the worker, however both the agency and host have responsibilities to assess risks and monitor the health and safety of their workers in the workplace, regardless of who their employer is.
What do the new laws mean?
Under the current Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, host employers do not owe labour hire workers the same health and safety duties as they owe their own staff. That means when labour hire workers get injured on the job and want to lodge an injury claim, the agency is their employer, not the host.
The new laws, if passed, will extend the definition of “employer” and “employee” to recognise labour hire workers as employees of the host employer. Host employers will therefore not be able to draft contracts that exclude liability or indemnify themselves when it comes to the health and safety of labour hire workers.
These new laws will be further enforced with the expansion of inspector powers to take photos or videos to record suspected workplace safety breaches in real time and issue notices electronically.
Failure to adhere to the shared safety responsibilities by the agency and host can result in fines up to $32,713 for individuals and $163,566 for businesses.
We hope that these laws and penalties send a strong and clear message to employers that the safety of Victorian workers is paramount.
Each and every worker deserves to be safe wherever they are carrying out their work. If you would like to discuss this new legislation please contact one of our WorkCover lawyers on (03) 9321 9988.