Monday, September 25, 2023
HomeWorld NewsUnderpaid Workers: Labour Hire Change Aims to Assist 67,000 Individuals

Underpaid Workers: Labour Hire Change Aims to Assist 67,000 Individuals

A crackdown on the use of labour-hire workers paid less than employees is tipped to boost pay rates for roughly 67,000 workers.

Employment relations minister Tony Burke said the economic impact of the targeted reforms—isolated to workplaces covered by bargained rates of pay—would be negligible, contrary to industry fears.

Mr. Burke said the changes were not an attack on labour-hire as a valid way to plug workforce shortages, but were aimed at employers using the model to undercut employee pay rates.

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“That’s a loophole—and the Albanese Labor government will close it,” he said.

Unveiling the fourth and final core element of the government’s workplace reforms to be introduced to parliament on Monday, the minister said the changes would be applicable to a small cohort of the labour-hire workforce

Mr. Burke said the hundreds of thousands covered by such arrangements for surge and specialist work—and paid more than employees for it—were not subject to any changes.

“For the workers this affects, closing this loophole will be life-changing,” he said.

Under the changes, employees, unions and hosts will be able to apply to the industrial umpire, so labour-hire workers can be paid the same wages as those in the enterprise agreement.

The Fair Work Commission will need to be sure the enterprise agreement would apply to the labour-hire worker if they were directly employed.

Small businesses with fewer than 15 employees will be carved out from the rule changes, with a default three-month exemption period to allow short-term temporary work to continue.

Employers will have about a year to prepare, with the new pay requirements to kick in from November 2024.

The labour hire changes—and the workplace reforms more generally—have come up against fierce opposition from the coalition and business lobby throughout the consultation process.

Business groups have warned the definition of labour hire would be broad and would cover all sorts of contractor arrangements.

They say the laws would generally make it harder to use the workers to cover skills shortfalls.

Critics say the changes could force firms to pay experienced workers the same as a new kid on the block.

Mr. Burke will also introduce a raft of changes to industrial laws to the lower house on Monday which will be subject to four weeks of debate.

The “closing loopholes” bill will define casual employment, set minimum standards for independent contractors in the gig economy, and safeguard workers from discrimination if they have been affected by domestic violence.

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