Farmers to be impacted by proposed new labour hire laws

The Weekly Times has reported that Victoria’s peak farming body has raised concerns over new proposed laws before State Parliament that would give labour hire workers greater rights and protections.

The Victorian Government introduced the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 to Parliament late last month, with the aim of extending the definition of “employer” and “employee” to ensure labour hire workers are considered employees of their host employer, such as a farmer.
A statement explained that under current laws, the host employer does not owe labour hire workers the same health and safety duties as they do their own staff.
Victorian Farmers Federation president Emma Germano said while safety must always remain the top priority, the changes were scapegoating.
“The Victorian Government overstepped the mark when they introduced labour hire licensing, supposedly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff,” she said.
“This change they are pursuing demonstrates they still expect the host to police labour hire.
“Farmers should not be at the mercy of this scapegoating. It needs to be a joint responsibility between the workforce labour company, the licensing authority and the host employer.”
The new laws would prohibit contracts that insure or indemnify a business against paying penalties for offences under workplace safety laws, with fines up to $54,522 for individuals and $272,610 for businesses.
Any contracts with this would be made void under the new laws, however the penalties would not come into effect for 12 months.
Labour hire providers and host employers would be required to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with each other when they share duties under the OHS Act, with fines up to $32,713 for individuals and $163,566 for businesses for any breach of this duty.
At the time of announcing the Bill had entered Parliament, Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said they were “commonsense changes” and “employers will no longer be able to dodge penalties”.