Busting myths around labour hire licensing obligations

2 May 2024
Busting myths around labour hire licensing obligations

Misconceptions or mistruths about obligations under the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic) can put both workers and businesses at risk.

Myths sometimes result from a misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge about obligations under the Act, but are also sometimes created by industry operators or advisors with unscrupulous intentions. 

It is crucial for providers and hosts to understand their obligations, as penalties for using or providing unlicensed labour hire services can exceed:

  • $600,000 for a corporation
  • $150,000 for an individual.

The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) will always provide accurate information on licensing obligations, including through advice and case studies – on the LHA website, in LHA News and via our engagement activities.

LHA is unable to provide legal or financial advice for specific circumstances, so getting high-quality business advice should be a high priority for any business.

Can I supply workers while waiting for my licence application to be granted? 

For a new application, you cannot supply workers until your licence is granted – it isn’t enough that you have applied.

LHA has seen examples of providers supplying workers while awaiting their labour hire licence application to be processed and granted.

This is unlawful – until a licence is granted, businesses cannot supply workers or advertise labour hire services. Hosts who engage these labour hire providers will also be contravening the Act and subject to the same penalties.

For renewal applications, if you have submitted the application prior to the expiry of your licence, you can continue to supply workers while the application is decided.

To avoid risking serious penalties, labour hire providers should: 

  • apply for a labour hire licence at least two months before they intend to start advertising their services, allowing time for the application to be processed 
  • not advertise labour hire services until their licence is granted 
  • submit an application to renew their licence ahead of its expiry – up to six months in advance. 

By renewing early, providers can avoid the risk of non-compliance and not being able to operate.

Subcontracting – Who needs a licence? 

Subcontracting to other labour hire providers is seen frequently within the labour hire industry.

A common myth is that if the head contractor in a supply chain holds a labour hire licence, subcontractors who supply workers to the ultimate host through the head contractor do not need a licence.

This is not true – every business in the supply chain who supplies workers, whether directly or through an intermediary, must have a labour hire licence.

Can I use someone else’s labour hire licence? 

No, you cannot.

Every business who supplies workers to a host must have its own labour hire licence – it is fraudulent to represent to a host that you hold a labour hire licence belonging to another business, and it could have serious consequences.

You could be prosecuted for providing labour hire services without a licence, and you might even be subject to criminal prosecution.

How can hosts spot a provider doing the wrong thing?

It is important that hosts can reliably check whether a provider has a licence, and what to do when they spot a provider doing the wrong thing.

Hosts should not rely on paper documentation to check the validity of a licence – it is relatively simple for an unscrupulous provider to ‘doctor’ paper certificates.

Always use the tools on the LHA website to ensure providers have a valid licence: 

Make sure you have a written contract with your provider that properly identifies who they are, and include an obligation to let you know of any changes to who runs the business, their licence status or any problems they have with complying with the law. You can check that the ABN they provide you is valid by using ABN Lookup.

You should check the identification of the person you are dealing with – and then check the licence register to see if they are listed as the nominated officer for the licence. If they are not listed, ask them for proof that they have authority to act for the labour hire provider. 

Another red flag for hosts is that non-compliant providers often change their name, ABN or bank details – if you are concerned, contact the LHA Enquiries team on 1300 545 200.