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Don’t get complacent about your on-hired worker obligations

It’s 2014  and the process of hiring and people engagement where compliance is concerned has changed forever – it is relentless and a full time role in itself keeping yourself informed about changes to legislation, employee rights, and legal obligations, and making sure your systems, procedures and communication channels are in place, to assist in tracking and managing the processes.

When you ‘on-hire’ or contract staff to work at any employer or organisation premises, the process of managing the arrangement is even more complex and elongated due to the ‘employee’ not being under your day-to-day management, the premises not being managed under your guide,  and the workers duties being supervised by another individual who is not employed directly by your organisation. Add to this to sometimes fast nature of some ‘on-hire’ work, it can be a tricky situation.

Regardless of whether an individual is ‘on-hired’ temporarily for a few hours, or a long term contract, your organisation has the same obligations as those individuals who may be contracted over a long period of time.

In short, just considering compliance, your obligations include:

  1. Checking and validating the person’s citizenship, copying their passport, and if they are a non-Australian citizen, confirming their rights to work in Australia and then tracking and re-checking visa status in the future.
  2. Conducting a work environment safety assessment, confirming and documenting the safety elements of the person’s role, conducting an assessment of the task/role and determining the person who will be supervising the worker.
  3. Delivering a safety induction to the individual, including:
    1. a job/industry general induction
    2. a specific on-the-job induction related to the working environment
    3. a task safety induction, to which they are assigned.
  4. Communicating to all parties their role and obligations where safety is concerned
  5. Delivering the person a copy of the Fair Work Statement
  6. Delivering bullying, discrimination and harassment information and education
  7. Validating and copying evidence of any particular licences that are necessary for the role, and tracking and managing the currency of those licences
  8. Checking and validating the qualifications of the individual
  9. Conducting a police check as required
  10. Ensuring the privacy of information of all of the parties

All of the above refers only to legal compliance, and hasn’t addressed salary, contracts/agreements, timesheets, and superannuation – yep, it’s exhausting.

Unfortunately every other day we hear of court cases and convictions against employers who do not have their house in order where safety compliance is concerned. The most recent case in December 2013 is HSC Recruitment and its sole Director being convicted and fined $74,000 for failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employee after an on-hired worker injured his hand undertaking a role he wasn’t trained for and where the machine was unguarded.

The reality is, although workplaces are dynamic in nature, and from time to time, an employer may require resources to be dispatched to another area to assist in workload, it is critical to ensure that the person has the skills for the role, is inducted and provided necessary training and that the employee and the labour hire firm are informed and have the opportunity to speak to the employee/worker.

In this case, had the labour hire firm known of the possible change in role, particularly his role which was largely unskilled, they would have had the opportunity to conduct a wider workplace and task assessment during initial host conversations, which may also have identified potentially unsafe machinery and possibly avoided the resulting injury.

Given how important education and information is to safety and the complex on-hire arrangement, the desire for business practicality that overlays legislation, and that the worker has an obligation to ‘help themselves’, the delivery of a general induction is one aspect that is very important. This induction should outline:

  • the inherent risks and hazards of being an on-hired worker
  • the relationship and roles of the host employer, the labour hire firm and themselves
  • The roles of each partner as an interwined business partnership
  • How to assess risk
  • What do to do if they are injured
  • Sensible guidance of what to do if they are asked to perform a job they are not authorised or skilled to undertake

As part of the HSC case, Justice Staff investigated and reviewed the induction that was delivered to the worker, finding that HSC had made a judgement of error by ‘relying on the host employer to give the worker an induction…..described as ‘basic’’.

Importantly, all of the compliance obligations undertaken as part of the workers engagement must be able to be supported by documented evidence.

This is a perfect case to demonstrate how WorkPro could have supported the labour hire firm and indeed the host employer through the provision of a web-based, legislatively correct screening and induction solution, that includes a simple integrated link to check a person’s work rights, Fair Work Statement, instant national police check and a broad range of WHS inductions, including an on-hired employee induction.

In this particular case, there was over 37 precedent cases cited. Appreciate that induction costs are of course important, and they need to be contained, so I’ll say right here, if you want to induct one worker using WorkPro, it will cost you $22.00, and on the other end of the scale, with bigger volumes, it could cost you $4.00/person – now, is it worth the risk?

Inspector Cooper v Schwarz (No 2) [2013] NSWIRComm 112 (20 December 2013)


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