Protecting workers from being exploited is a noble goal and one I am fully supportive of, yet the new Labour Hire Licensing Bill being proposed by the QLD Government (with VIC and SA now following suit) is so broad that it will impact hundreds of thousands of businesses – just like yours.
The problem with the Bill is that the definition of a Labour Hire company is far too vague. The definition of a ‘person who provides to another person, a worker to do work’ will apply to businesses in Engineering, PM, Logistics, IT, Marketing, HR, Contracting and Procurement, Mining, Oil & Gas, Health, Law, Accounting, Finance just to name a few. Businesses in all of these areas regularly second or sub-contract their staff to other businesses or Government Agencies in support of larger projects.
These are not the types of workers who are being exploited. They are full-time employees of the business, under salaries and employee agreements. Businesses have invested in their employee’s training, mentoring and processes to build high quality niche capability that will be their competitive advantage in the market. How does including them in this bill help achieve the main aim of the Bill?
Every business which is on a government panel to provide services or provides specialist support to larger companies on those panels, will now need to be licensed. As an example of how far this will reach, look at a national industry such as Defence. QLD spends a lot of money and effort in trying to bring defence projects to the State. As a lot of the industry operates across state boundaries due to the dispersed nature of Defence work, this Bill will ensure that businesses all over Australia will need to be licensed and submit to the QLD Govt’s reporting requirements just to support QLD based projects. How many businesses that do not regularly operate in QLD will now turn down supporting projects due to these requirements? I fear that could lead to a greater skills shortage to support the work being done here and potentially reduce the feasibility of some QLD based projects.
Construction and Recruitment seem to be the only industries that are exempt from this Bill, no doubt from their representation in the initial stakeholder engagement. A specialist engineering firm is not going to be looking to engage on a Labour hire licensing bill because that is not what they do. Yet, the definition will certainly apply to them. It just shows how ignorant the Government is about how industry operates that they would only exclude Construction as an industry when there are so many others that operate in the same fashion.
Actually, I find it funny that Minister Grace used the licensing of real estate agencies as an example of why labour hire should be licensed, when a valid interpretation of the current bill would mean that real estate agencies are also now required to be licensed as labour hire firms. Think it through, when I sold my house, I engaged a real estate agency to provide to me a worker (real estate agent) to come to my location and perform work (sell my house). I know what I’m saying is ludicrous but that is how ludicrously vague this bill is. I am sure that is not their intent, which is why I am asking them to revisit the definition of labour hire so that it actually focuses on the intended industry. The Minister has stated there is scope to include regulations that will preclude business types under certain circumstances but how far will it go? Would it be more efficient to simply narrow the definition of what a labour hire firm is rather than exclude 99% of industry?
You can’t think of this from a State by State case, this should be Federal, which I understand has had complications. With VIC and SA following suit, that means that a business that operates nationally will need to be licensed across three states and provides 6 different Government reports each year. If all 8 states and territories follow suit that could equate to an annual cost of $40,000, 8 yearly licence renewals and 16 government reports each year. If that doesn’t cause some businesses to shut down or at least cut their staff numbers, who do you think will be paying that cost? The government. Businesses will be forced to pass on the cost in their overheads making consulting support that much more expensive. This must be a Federal effort not a State one in order to make it work the way it is intended. Employee mobility across state lines is becoming the norm. It’s how industry collaborates to increase its productivity and achieve the complex tasks that need to be done across the country.
This Government speaks a lot about job growth, collaboration and innovation, yet this bill will make it that much harder for QLD businesses to use secondment as a tool to allow them to survive and create the situation where they can grow sustainably.
All we are asking on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of effected businesses across the country, is to please revisit the definition or at least revisit a Federal solution to minimise the impact for national industries. I am more than happy to work with the State Government on behalf of our clients and the wider industries to find a solution that doesn’t adversely impact the wider economy and the good work being done by industry to become more robust and create new jobs. However, if it passes as is, BenchOn is happy to provide a voice for industry through a petition to show the magnitude of how many businesses this will affect.
Comment below on how this will affect your business.
Written by Tim Walmsley, CEO and Founder of BenchOn.