Effective from 22 March 2022, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (Act) has been amended to confirm that labour hire workers supplied under a labour hire arrangement will now be recognised as ‘employees’ of the host company, for the purposes of the Act.
The definition of “employee” under the Act now includes:
- A worker supplied by a labour-hire provider to a host employer;
- A worker recruited by a labour-hire provider for a host employer; and
- A worker placed by a labour-hire provider with a host employer.
This means that Victorian host employers are now officially required to treat labour hire workers the same as those workers employed directly by the host company in regards to occupational health and safety matters. By virtue of the expanded definition of “employer”, host employers are now bound by the ‘primary employer’ occupational health and safety duties contained in the Act, as well as the labour-hire employer, expanding the health and safety protections labour-hire workers are afforded whilst undertaking work at host employer sites.
Additionally, those who have a duty as an ‘employer’ to a labour-hire employee are now required, as far as is reasonably practicable, to consult, co-operate and coordinate activities regarding occupational health and safety in respect of that worker.
Failure to comply with the new consultation provisions can result in maximum penalty of 180 penalty units (currently $32,713) for an individual and 900 penalty units (currently $163,566) for a corporation, per breach.
It is important to acknowledge that prior to these changes, host employers already owed health and safety obligations to labour-hire workers.
The intention of these new changes is not to duplicate the effort of all employer parties in ensuring health and safety obligations are met in respect of labour-hire workers, but for labour-hire and host employers to work together to ensure the shared obligations are collectively met.
As such, the amendments to the Act impact businesses operating in the labour-hire industry and those who engage labour-hire workers as a host.
It is important those ‘employers’ affected understand these changes and ensure they are complying in respect of the health and safety obligations, now in force, regarding labour-hire workers.
HR Legal can provide assistance in respect of these changes.