In September 2021, new laws passed the Victorian parliament to ensure that labour-hire workers have the same rights and safety protections as other workers.
The Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (the Act) amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (DG Act), Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act) and the Equipment (Public Safety) Act 1994 (EPS Act).
“This legislation will make important improvements to our existing OHS laws – closing gaps that were being exploited by unscrupulous employers and imposing fines for those who continue to do the wrong thing,” said Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt.
So what do the new laws mean for employers in Victoria?
For employers, the new laws close the gap between their workers and labour-hire workers by:
- Extending the definition of “employer” and “employee”. Labour-hire workers are now considered employees of the host under the Act;
- Requiring labour-hire providers and host employers to consult and cooperate on their shared responsibility to ensure the safety of labour-hire workers. Any breach of this duty is punishable by fines of up to $32,713 for individuals and $163,566 for businesses;
- Prohibiting contracts that insure or indemnify a person against paying monetary penalties under workplace safety laws. Offering to enter, or holding such a contract will attract penalties of up to $54,522 for individuals and $272,610 for businesses. Individuals and businesses will have a year to unwind from existing contracts;
- Protecting labour-hire workers from a host employer discriminating against them for raising health and safety concerns; and
- The Act enables inspectors to issue entry reports to a person electronically (i.e. via email), without first obtaining their consent and similarly the Act also makes amendments to enable inspectors to issue infringement notices electronically to a person without first obtaining their consent.
There have also been changes to the powers of Authorised Representatives of Registered Employee Organisations (ARREOs) and Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) to now both take photos, measurements, and make sketches and recordings, and for the return, disposal and destruction of seized items.
When do the amendments take effect?
All amendments came into effect on Wednesday 22 September 2021, except for the labour-hire provisions and new offences relating to the prohibition on certain insurance and indemnities.
The latter will commence on Tuesday 22 March, 2022 to give business six months to adapt to the new laws and give WorkSafe time to amend its processes and develop guidance.
Need more information on the changes?
You can find information from Worksafe information about the changes here:
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