work. That is one of my great passions and missions to get something
done about it. But I don‟t holdout great hopes because I‟m very aware of the political obstacles. In an area like industrial relations
and labour regulation, there is a lot of politics. You can choose to ignore the politics, which will not getyou very f
ar or you can choose to understand and work with the politics and that‟s something I try todo.”
So if you find yourself in this situation, how can you defend yourself?
“Let‟s say we have a situation where someone is working as an employee and is then ei
ther induced oreffectively forced to resign from their employment to become an independent contractor.
“There are in fact provisions in what is now the Fair Work Act to deal with exactly that situation and
the Fair Work Ombudsman, which is the main enforcement body under our industrial laws, isincreasingly bringing prosecutions against businesses engaging in that kind of activity. It is not as if the protections
there, but either you have to be prepared to bring some sort of courtproceedings, or you go to a body like the Fair Work Ombudsman and tell them your story and see if they are prepared to investigate and do something about it.
“The ABCC is also doing this in the construction industry. We are seeing an increasing number of sham
“There is certainly some legal protection there for employees who are forced to become contractors.
There is also some protection for people who are hired as contractors but legally they are employees,but that really only catches businesses who have no idea what they are doing.
“If I take you on to work for my business and I tell you that you are a contractor and I say „go and getyourself an Australian business number (ABN) and give me invoices, and I‟ll pay you and it‟s up to you
about the tax‟, the chances are fairly good that you are in fact going to be my employee, not
a contractor, which means that you have quite a range of good legal options. For a start, going to theAustralian Tax Office and asking where your super is, or checking whether you have been paid enough,such as meeting the minimum wage under our industrial laws, or whether you have been provided withleave entitlements.
“The businesses who don‟t know what they‟re doing can be, and increasingly are being, caught ou
Businesses that know what they‟re doing and get legal advice and get a carefully drawn up contractand are careful about what they explain to the people they are taking on, there‟s not much that can be
at the moment. That is what I want to change
What about the Fair Work Act
how does that fit into this issue?
“Over the last 20 years we have had constant change in labour legislation. I think maybe that era of
change is coming to an end and settling down. We have the Fair Work legislation which has now been
in place for two years. It is about to be reviewed.”
What is that legislation for? “The Fair Work legislation is the main industrial legislation that applies
across the country. Apart from in Western Australia it applies to everyone who works as an employeein the private sector.
“It sets down minimum standards for employment on wages, working hours, leave entitlements; it
provides employees with protection against unfair dismissal; it deals with the rights of trade unions;and it deals with a range of other issues from the small, like the obligations of employers to keeprecords, up to the big principles about not being discriminated against on various grounds.
“But it is focused on employees:
If you are working as an employee in Australia you have one of the most impressive andsignificant set of protections that exist in the developed world.
If you are a contractor you have almost no protection.
“Essentially [as a contractor] you are not covered by the Fair Work legislation for most purpo
ses. Youhave the protection of most health and safety laws
those apply to anyone who is doing work at aworkplace, whether they are employed or a contractor. You have protections against discrimination soif you are