(AUSTRALIA) – The Australian federal government is set to close a loophole that allows employers to exploit labor hire staff with lower wages as part of a significant package of workplace reforms.
These reforms, described as “life-changing,” are expected to be introduced to parliament in the coming week.
Under the proposed laws, companies with more than 15 employees will be required to pay labor hire workers the same wages as those engaged under enterprise agreements.
Reforms to bridge wage gaps and enhance worker protection
This move aims to address wage disparities and improve conditions fotionr labor hire staff.
The Fair Work Commission will gain the authority to issue orders compelling businesses to pay equal wages to both directly employed and labor hire workers, preventing companies from evading their obligations.
Various factors will be considered, including whether the enterprise agreement would apply to labor hire workers if they were directly employed by the company.
The reforms also include measures to criminalize wage theft with stricter penalties, including the possibility of jail time.
The changes aim to enhance protections for gig economy workers and casual employees, ensuring they receive fair treatment and compensation.
While these changes will affect a relatively small number of workers, they are expected to have a significant positive impact on those currently affected by the labor hire loophole.
The reforms are set to take effect in November 2024, allowing businesses time to adjust to the new payment obligations.
The broader goal of the reforms is to strengthen the powers of the Fair Work Commission to protect workers’ rights and improve workplace conditions.
This includes setting minimum standards for employee-like workers on digital platforms and addressing underpayment issues by medium and large companies.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke emphasized the importance of closing the labor hire loophole and improving conditions for affected workers, noting that these changes would be life-changing for those impacted.
The reforms are seen as a response to concerns about workers being exploited through labor hire arrangements and wage theft, and they aim to create a fairer and more equitable work environment in Australia.