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Who is Responsible for Health and Safety in the Labour Hire Situation?

Using Australian labour hire agencies for your business brings with it many benefits, most noticeably the zero-obligation nature of the working relationship, which allows you to scale up and shrink down your workforce as needed. As the work agreement is temporary, you’ve got true freedom to control your circumstances.

Effectively, you have at your disposal a pool of pre-vetted labourers whenever you need them, and not a minute longer. It’s incredibly convenient and drastically reduces the paperwork when compared to an in-house hiring process.

With that being said, host businesses using labour hire workers still have certain obligations when it comes to health and safety. But with three parties at play, it’s not always obvious who is responsible for what.

How does Labour Hire Work?

Labour hire is an agreement between three parties: the worker, the agency and the host business. Under this work model, the labourers for hire are directly employed by the agency, which then allocates them to the relevant host businesses.

Host businesses pay a fee to the labour hire agency, who then provides pay for the worker. The labour hire company is essentially an intermediary between worker and workplace. Host businesses needn’t worry about anything like payroll, insurance and tax as these are the responsibility of the labour agency.

The agreement is contingent so there’s no guarantee of future employment. Regardless of the host business’ freedom to hire and drop workers at will, they must still ensure lawful work standards, which includes matters of health and safety.

Who’s in charge of Health and Safety in a Labour Hire Situation?

Ensuring a safe and thus lawful work environment is not the sole responsibility of a single party, but rather a shared duty of everyone within the labour hire work model. Generally speaking, how the worker came to be employed at the workplace is largely irrelevant. Most health and safety caveats still apply, under the primary objective of keeping people safe at work.

The primary duty of care is between the labour hire agency and host business. However, there is often confusion on the matter, where one party expects the other to worry about these concerns. It’s actually quite dangerous to make such an assumption. You run the risk of increasing liability, or worse cause harm to workers.

The precise details surrounding who is responsible for health and safety in a labour hire situation should be outlined in the labour hire contract. This written document outlines the terms and conditions of the relationship between labour agency and host business.

Because there is no contract between the host business and labourers for hire themselves, it’s critical that this agreement protects the interests of all three parties, which obviously includes health and safety standards.

Health and Safety Responsibility Consultations

It is expected for the labour hire agency and host business to formally consult on work health and safety (WHS), a critical measure for safeguarding worker rights. Onsite labour hire workers have the same consultation rights as any other worker, as do apprentices and trainees.

Agency and host consult on work to be performed, including any tools, equipment and machinery operated, the safety conditions of the workplace, and the required personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as who is responsible for supplying it. 

It is the labour hire agency’s job to ensure that the host business has taken the appropriate steps towards lawful work health and safety.

Be Clear on Health and Safety Responsibilities

As a leading provider of labour hire in Sydney and neighbouring areas, we know that business feels much better when people feel protected. Being clear on health and safety responsibilities allows host businesses to reduce liability but more importantly keeps onsite labourers safe.

Got questions about how labour hire works for your business? Get in touch with a trusted labour hire agency today!

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