Prevention Is Better Than Cure: Prepare For The Incoming Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017

By Brenton Allen, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

In a previous update, MST Lawyers outlined key features of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 (‘Bill‘) and the likely implications for franchisors and holding companies.

On Monday, 4 September 2017, the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 was successfully passed by the Senate, albeit with amendments.

Due to the number of amendments made in the Senate on Monday evening, it is likely that the Bill will return to the House of Representatives before it can become law.

MST Lawyers will publish a separate article on the final amended version of the Bill when it is published.

Now is the time for franchisors to be proactive and consider the ways they can limit liability for failures by their franchisees to comply with workplace relations laws.  Though there is no one size fits all option, all franchisors are encouraged to consider taking one or more of the following steps:

  1. Review, and amend where necessary, franchise agreements to require franchisees to:
    1. comply with all workplace relations laws (including those under the Fair Work Act 2009 and any applicable modern awards and/or registered workplace agreements); and
    2. submit to, and participate in, workplace law compliance audits arranged to be conducted by the franchisor.
  2. Review, and amend where necessary, the business operations manual to include educative material concerning compliance with workplace laws.
  3. Provide templates and guides to assist and educate franchisees (including, for example, summaries of applicable modern awards and minimum rates of pay, engagement letters, sample payslips etc.).
  4. Engage a specialist employment law firm such as MST Lawyers to audit franchisees for compliance with workplace relations laws. All cases of discovered non-compliance should be actioned swiftly by franchisors.
  5. Provide regular updates and mandatory training for franchisees on compliance with workplace relations laws, including the financial and legal consequences of non-compliance.
  6. Establish a hotline for receiving complaints from employees of franchisees, facilitating dispute resolution.
  7. Establish a hotline to enable franchisees to seek legal advice from a specialist employment law firm on HR related queries.

With the expectation that the Bill will receive Royal Assent and become law, franchisors are encouraged to take a proactive approach to comply with incoming laws.

For a confidential discussion, contact our specialist lawyers in the Employment Law team by email or call +61 3 8540 0200.