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Protect your business – the importance of high-quality advice

7 March 2024
Protect your business – the importance of high-quality advice

Most businesses rely on external advice to ensure they are compliant with their legal obligations, however some providers have been let down by certain business advisers.

The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) often sees work produced by business advisers when assessing compliance with workplace and other laws.

Labour hire providers should be careful to select business advisers with strong experience in labour hire law and workplace relations. Receiving advice that protects a business from the significant risks around non-compliance represents a good business investment.

Appropriately qualified business advisers will often provide sound advice and, if that advice is followed, applicants and licensees will meet their obligations under the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic). Unfortunately, not all work by advisers is sound, and this can lead to problems for applicants and licensees in their dealings with LHA and other regulators.

Use of template contracts

One area of concern for LHA is the use of non-compliant template contracts for engaging workers.

Providers should be cautious about using any templates that are not supported by guidance they understand, and ensure they are appropriate for their circumstances.

When LHA assesses licence applications, the applicant must give details of the industrial instruments that determine the wages and conditions of their employees. Applicants often refer to the appropriate award, but some applicants use a contract of employment.

Several licence applicants have provided LHA with legally non-compliant template contracts, including some that:

  • detract from award rates and conditions
  • clash with the Fair Work Act’s national employment standards
  • seek to displace the applicant’s obligations to meet health and safety laws and migration laws
  • impose conditions that would be in breach of discrimination laws – such as the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for workers with disabilities
  • misclassify employees as independent contractors
  • impose unlawful restrictions on workers seeking other employment.

When this occurs, LHA will usually engage with the applicant and attempt to rectify these problems and bring the contract into line with legal obligations.

However, this can require significant time and effort for an applicant and cause significant delays in processing the licence application – delays and issues that could have been avoided if the applicant had invested in better quality business advice.

LHA has also seen problems arising from providers using generative AI such as ChatGPT to create employment templates. In one example, a template generated through AI incorrectly indicated that workers were only entitled to seven public holidays a year, and that one of Australia’s public holidays is called Independence Day.

The Fair Work Ombudsman can be relied upon for quality advice. Industry associations are often able to provide reliable advice where resourced to do so. Accountants are not always well equipped to provide specialist workplace relations advice.