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AUSTRALIA'S JOINT EMPLOYER INQUIRY UNDER WAY

by Jason Gehrke,
last updated 26/04/2017

in this article:

April 2017 - A number of submissions have been made to the Australian committee reviewing proposed legislation that would make franchisors jointly liable with franchisees on employment issues.

The Senate committee tasked with reviewing the Australian Government’s move to create a joint employer liability on franchisors via its proposed Protecting Vulnerable Worker’s bill has received a number of submissions and has already completed its public consultation.

Public submissions closed on April 6, initially with only nine submissions appearing on the inquiry website, although others have been added since. Public hearings were conducted in Canberra on April 12, and Sydney on April 13 (the day before the Easter holidays), with presentations made by the Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) and other business groups, as well as two unions, the Department of Employment and the Fair Work Ombudsman, among others.

Media reporting of the hearings by Fairfax, which initially uncovered widespread wage fraud in convenience chain 7-Eleven in late 2015, has been limited to coverage of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s submission.

The controversial bill was referred on March 23 to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, however in a blow to the franchise sector the deadline for public submissions ended barely two weeks later while many stakeholders were still only learning of the bill.

The proposed legislation would make franchisors liable for outstanding wages owed to workers in their networks even when those workers are employed and paid by franchisees, and comes in the wake of widespread wage fraud in the 7-Eleven network, which has seen the privately-owned company repay nearly $88 million in outstanding wages to underpaid workers.

The FCA has also undertaken vigorous lobbying efforts to amend the legislation, including representations to government ministers and other parliamentarians. It has created a resource page on its website to explain the ramifications of the bill, and outline its position on how the bill should be modified to achieve the policy intent of protecting vulnerable workers, without causing a flow-on effect of harming entire networks.

The World Franchise Council, the official body representing national franchise associations globally, has also criticised the proposed legislation and urged the Australian government to modify its position on joint employer liability.

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