Whilst the attention upon matters arising from the Vulnerable Workers Bill may appeared to have died down recently this is certainly not the case.
Protecting vulnerable workers and expanding accessorial liability to franchisors is still very much on the immediate agenda of the Government which has listed the Vulnerable Workers Bill for debate when Parliament resumes next Tuesday.
The new legislation has been driven by the systemic employment breaches identified within 7-Eleven, as well as subsequent investigations which revealed numerous instances of serious worker exploitation within other well-known franchise networks.
Whilst there was some delay in the Bills continued debate in the Senate, which gave franchisors a little room to breathe, the franchise industry should not take their finger off the pulse given the likely passage of the Bill when it is next before the Senate.
Pressure has been placed on the Coalition for the pervious delay, with the ALP questioning whether the delay in debating the matter was due to lobbying by Franchise Council executive Chair, Bruce Billson, a former Federal Coalition Small Business Minister.
Despite the delay in debating the Bill there is mounting pressure upon both sides of politics to pass the Bill into law and all indications are that the Bill will pass shortly given that it has gained bi-partisan support and the ALP indicating that they generally support the Bill yet will pursue variations which seek to strengthen the Bill and the powers of the Ombudsman.
The growing movement to protect vulnerable workers and seeking to hold franchisors accountable is further demonstrated by a move by NSW Labour Leader, Luke Foley who has announced a move to criminalise wage theft and see underpayments by businesses, including head franchisors, attract the heftiest of fines and jail terms for individuals.
The impending liability for underpayments and workplace breaches within franchise networks means that franchisors must act now and take positive proactive steps to protect their franchise business.
Despite the delay in passing this Bill it is clear that the both sides of politics see this as a key issue which will undoubtedly see franchisors accountable for identified non-compliance within their network where they have failed to take reasonable measures to identify and address the non-compliance.