Traditionally, alternative labour models – including outsourcing and contracting – have been used by business to defray cost and risk and deal with workflow fluctuations. Today’s environment is creating new challenges for organising and engaging alternative labour. Here’s 5 key reasons why:
Increased accountability for those at the ‘top’
Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 in 2017 introduced new vulnerable workers laws under which certain corporate group holding companies and franchisor businesses can be held directly liable for breaches by other companies within their broader commercial operations.
New labour hire regulations
New laws in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria require labour hire companies to be licensed. The broad definitions used could also pick up other labour models (eg, some types of contractors or secondment arrangements). ‘Host’ companies and other people involved in the labour arrangements can also be liable, meaning a degree of due diligence may now be required for all parties involved in sourcing labour.
Supply chain reporting
Modern slavery legislation imposes mandatory reporting requirements on the activities of others in their supply chains, with the requirement to produce a ‘Modern Slavery Statement’. Many companies are already subject to reporting in the US or UK. New legislation imposes requirements on companies in NSW, with Commonwealth legislation currently being drafted. Companies above the reporting threshold will need to assess the labour arrangements of their suppliers, and potentially their suppliers’ suppliers as well.
Regulatory responses to the gig economy
“Gig” work is coming under increasing legal challenge both in Australia and globally. Some political parties, and the ACTU, are also pushing for legal changes to regulate gig work. Watch this space – changes directed at gig work could also affect freelancers or other task-based labour.
Outsourcing is far from new. The use of third party labour with their “built for purpose” workplace arrangements is common. But in some sectors, union campaigning to compel a different outcome, attacking “Trojan horse” and “sham” arrangements (drawing on activist methodologies), is as powerful as ever.
The above trends result in increased risk and liability for those businesses that use labour models other than direct employment. But these risks can be navigated with due diligence with alternative labour remaining a viable strategy.