Australia Advocacy Update - What you need to know

NEW FEDERAL MINISTRY

In December last year, Malcolm Turnbull announced changes to the Federal Ministry with a new line-up that reflects an increased focus on Jobs and Innovation.

Senator Hon. Michaelia Cash will remain the Cabinet representative for the employment portfolio in the new ‘super ministry’ of Jobs and Innovation. Minister Cash will be supported by Craig Laundy as Minister for Small and Family Business, Workplace and Deregulation and Senator Zed Seselja as Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation.

RCSA looks forward to working with the Ministers in their new capacities to help them better understand the challenges and priorities for our members, and to advocate on your behalf to ensure the needs of the sector are reflected in considerations in Canberra.

We have already established a strong working relationship with Minister Cash’s office, which we are confident will continue in her new role. Minister Laundy comes to the new role from a background in small business and has long been a proponent for business and the workplace in Parliament and the media. We look forward to introducing him to RCSA early in the new year.

LABOUR HIRE LICENSING

State governments are now moving at pace to establish licensing schemes for the labour hire sector, with South Australia and Queensland setting commencement dates of 1 March and 16 April respectively. Because of a difference in transition arrangements however (60 days in Queensland vs six months in South Australia) the scheme will effectively come into operation in Queensland ahead of South Australia. In December, Victoria introduced legislation to establish its own labour hire licensing scheme.

The licensing schemes will impact anyone who supplies a worker to another person to do work in those States that have them in place.

Who will be impacted by State-based licensing schemes?

Anyone who supplies a person to do work within a State that has a licensing scheme in place will need to obtain a licence. It doesn’t matter if your operation is based in a State other than Queensland or South Australia - if you are supplying a worker to perform work in either of those States you will need to apply for a licence from March or April next year.

Do I have to get more than one licence?

Licence arrangements will only apply to the State in which they exist. You will need to apply for a licence in every State in which you operate that has a licensing scheme in place. Queensland and South Australia will commence in the first half of 2018. Victoria has introduced legislation to establish a licensing scheme and the ACT is close to concluding an inquiry into insecure work. This could prompt a recommendation to adopt a similar licensing scheme in ACT.

State governments are working together with the aim of finding a way to mutually recognise key elements of each of their schemes to make it easier for national operators to apply in multiple States.

When will I need to apply?

The South Australian licensing scheme will start from 1 March, 2018. Businesses will have six months from the start of the scheme to apply for a license.

The Queensland licensing scheme will start on 16 April and providers will have 60 days from that date to apply for a license.

What is involved in getting a license?

While the requirements will vary slightly from State to State, the key elements of the labour hire licence remain broadly the same. License holders will need to pass a ‘fit and proper person test’ and undergo financial assurance processes designed to establish:

  • The applicants’ character, honesty and professionalism

  • Compliance with relevant laws

  • Insolvency status

  • Business knowledge and skill

  • Whether the applicant has previously held a licence that was suspended or cancelled

  • Whether the person has been found guilty or convicted of an offence prescribed by regulation

There will be a fee payable to obtain the licence and to renew it.

What could I do now to get ready?

There are a range of things that you can do now to prepare for the start of licensing schemes.

  • Consider your ability to meet a fit and proper person test. If you are concerned that an aspect of the test may cause you some difficulty, you may wish to plan for it – either by planning to apply for an exemption to elements or planning for an appeal.

  • Anticipate what objections you might receive. You could do this by checking over your history of compliance with relevant laws and your complaints register if you have one.

  • Anticipate whether it is possible that someone may object to the granting of a licence for your organisation as a lever in industrial or workplace negotiations and understand what that might mean in terms of process for your application.

  • Think about who your Nominated Officers might be, their availability and whether you need to appoint additional or substitute Nominated Officers.

  • Think about how you will capture and retrieve information required for reporting in line with license requirements and plan your processes and procedures.

  • Stay alert for further updates as regulations are circulated and more information comes to hand.

  • Talk to your staff, clients and workers about what the new laws will mean and how they will impact your operation.

  • Get StaffSure certified. StaffSure certification incorporates many of the requirements of State-based licensing schemes – particularly in relation to fit and proper person and financial assurances tests. RCSA is working with State governments in the hope that the relevant elements of StaffSure certification will be mutually recognised by their schemes.

How do licensing schemes relate to StaffSure?

The licensing schemes will be compulsory for anyone operating in the States which have them, while StaffSure is a voluntary certification scheme.

StaffSure is a national certification while licensing arrangements are State-based.

Many of the elements of StaffSure – particularly in relation to fit and proper person and financial assurances tests – are similar to those in State licensing arrangements.

RCSA is working closely with State governments in the hope that StaffSure certified organisations will have relevant elements of that certification mutually recognised for the purposes of the State licensing scheme.

WARNING ON LABOUR HIRE PAYROLL PROCESSORS

Governments in both Western Australia and the Northern Territory have circulated information this month to labour and on-hire operators expressing their concern that some payroll processors are failing to pass on payroll taxes to relevant state revenue offices, despite receiving payments from the employer.

According to the material circulated by government, the practice appears to be more prevalent with payroll operators using ‘labour hire’ contracts. It is happening in circumstances where the payroll processing function has been contracted to another company who is responsible for paying employee wages, benefits, PAYG, superannuation and payroll tax on their behalf.

What should I do?

Governments are recommending that anyone who contracts out payroll services conduct due diligence on their provider. 1. Ask for proof that they have passed on payroll tax to the relevant State or Territory revenue office.

2. If you are unsure about whether payment has been made, contact your State or Territory revenue office (contact details available at: www.payrolltax.gov.au)

3. Be wary of this activity and notify your State or Territory revenue office if you have been recently approached or if you are approached in the near future by labour hire payroll processors offering to help your business.

In the cases seen to date, the labour hire contract has not been a genuine agreement, which means employers have to pay further amounts to meet their outstanding tax liabilities, while trying to recover the payment already made to the payroll processor.

CHANGES TO SKILLED MIGRATION ARRANGEMENTS

In November last year, the Department of Employment conducted a review of its Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

The traffic light bulletin issued by the government in November followed a review, which proposed removing the occupation of ‘Recruitment Consultant’ from the STSOL.

The Government announced earlier this week that Recruitment Consultants will remain on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), but with a significantly increased income threshold.

While we are pleased the government has kept the occupation on the STSOL, we believe the change to the income threshold will present a challenge for the recruitment sector.

To read more about the update please click here.

STAFFSURE

The StaffSure certification program continues to go from strength to strength as both consumers and providers of workforce services recognise its effectiveness in supporting informed choices about the quality and legitimacy of labour hire services in Australia and New Zealand.

StaffSure is fully operational in both Australia and New Zealand and we would like to thank and applaud those members who have participated in the program to date and to congratulate those who have become StaffSure certified.

We are currently finalising the website and other content for the StaffSure program and will formally launch the program very soon.

We are also working closely with State Governments with the aim of securing mutual recognition for relevant elements of the StaffSure certification within their own licensing schemes.

StaffSure is an outstanding example of how industry-led mechanisms can work effectively in addressing market issues. Developed by the sector, in partnership with relevant and impacted stakeholders, StaffSure makes it easier for businesses, government bodies and workers to find and partner with reputable workforce services providers.

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