Protecting vulnerable workers

Employsure senior employment relations adviser Harry Hilliar. Image: Supplied

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill has sparked debate in the Senate as it looks to increase the responsibility between the franchisor and franchisee.

The Bill “seeks to amend the Fair Work Act and introduce a higher scale of penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of prescribed workplace laws and increased penalties for record-keeping failures,” according to an Employsure media release.

It will hold franchisors responsible where it is determined that any objectionable practices were the result of the business model.

Employsure senior employment relations adviser Harry Hilliar said the proposed changes are quite significant to franchisors and they are intended to target large corporations.

“There is no distinction in the [current] Bill between a large and small employer, taking the risks for all franchises in relation to contraventions of workplace laws from bad to worse,” he said.

“The franchise sector is being singled out and put on notice with franchisors required to take greater responsibility for the employment practices of their franchisees. We work with many franchises – the extra burden placed with this increase in liability emphasises the importance of reporting and compliance to every franchisor”, he said.

“While the Bill proposes that a franchisor must show that it has taken reasonable steps to prevent contraventions by its franchisees, it does not outline the fine print as to what is considered reasonable. In short, ensuring compliance across the employment relations practices of its franchisees will become an even more substantial risk area and liability for franchisors”, he said.

The Bill, if passed will also give unprecedented powers for obtaining documentation and materials for any investigation that is seeking to protect vulnerable workers.

Employsure said the Bill was put forward as a response to a number of high-profile cases involving big businesses and large cases of wage fraud.

For c-stores, this will mean that if it is part of a franchise chain, the burden of responsibility will be heavier for franchisors.

The final verdict of the Bill is yet to be seen, but it is likely to be decided when Parliament resumes.


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