The Fair Work Ombudsman has released the findings of our audit into sham contracting in the cleaning services, hair and beauty and call centre industries.
Sham contracting occurs when an employer attempts to disguise an employment relationship as an independent contracting relationship, thereby avoiding obligatory rates of pay and other entitlements. This gives the employer an unfair competitive advantage.
The operational intervention began in April in response to intelligence from various sources and concerns raised by key stakeholders, including employee and employer groups and members of parliament.
The report states that a number of trading enterprises engaged contractors who should more properly have been classified as employees.
While Fair Work inspectors found that most of these arrangements were not deliberate, they did identify a number of employers whom they believe knowingly or recklessly misrepresented the employment relationship to their workers as one of independent contracting.
Legal action is being considered in some instances.
The Fair Work Ombudsman found misclassification of employees in each of the three industries that were investigated, but does not believe the problem is confined to these industries alone.
Misclassification can lead to a contravention of the National Employment Standards (NES), minimum wage orders and terms of a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement.
It can also result in contraventions of employer obligations to provide employee records and pay slips and may expose employers to back-payment of outstanding entitlements.
The report calls for employers to exercise a greater degree of care over their contracted labour arrangements.
A number of employers had received advice from accountants on how to structure their operations. It appeared the legality or appropriateness of the arrangements under relevant workplace laws was often not considered.