Traditionally, alternative labour models – including outsourcing and contracting – have been used by business to defray cost and risk and deal with workflow fluctuations. Today’s environment is creating new challenges for organising and engaging alternative labour. Here’s 5 key reasons why:

  1. Increased accountability for those at the ‘top’

Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 in 2017 introduced new vulnerable workers laws under which certain corporate group holding companies and franchisor businesses can be held directly liable for breaches by other companies within their broader commercial operations.

  1. New labour hire regulations

New laws in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria require labour hire companies to be licensed. The broad definitions used could also pick up other labour models (eg, some types of contractors or secondment arrangements). ‘Host’ companies and other people involved in the labour arrangements can also be liable, meaning a degree of due diligence may now be required for all parties involved in sourcing labour.

  1. Supply chain reporting

Modern slavery legislation imposes mandatory reporting requirements on the activities of others in their supply chains, with the requirement to produce a ‘Modern Slavery Statement’. Many companies are already subject to reporting in the US or UK. New legislation imposes requirements on companies in NSW, with Commonwealth legislation currently being drafted. Companies above the reporting threshold will need to assess the labour arrangements of their suppliers, and potentially their suppliers’ suppliers as well.

  1. Regulatory responses to the gig economy

Gig” work is coming under increasing legal challenge both in Australia and globally. Some political parties, and the ACTU, are also pushing for legal changes to regulate gig work. Watch this space – changes directed at gig work could also affect freelancers or other task-based labour.

  1. Union campaigns

Outsourcing is far from new. The use of third party labour with their “built for purpose” workplace arrangements is common. But in some sectors, union campaigning to compel a different outcome, attacking “Trojan horse” and “sham” arrangements (drawing on activist methodologies), is as powerful as ever.

The above trends result in increased risk and liability for those businesses that use labour models other than direct employment. But these risks can be navigated with due diligence with alternative labour remaining a viable strategy.


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Photo of Chris Gardner Chris Gardner

“Strategic”. That’s how clients consistently describe Chris.

Starting with the end in mind, he understands that legal advice is only one piece of the jigsaw when balancing strategy and risk.

Clients know they’ll receive advice that fits into the bigger picture.

Best recognised…

“Strategic”. That’s how clients consistently describe Chris.

Starting with the end in mind, he understands that legal advice is only one piece of the jigsaw when balancing strategy and risk.

Clients know they’ll receive advice that fits into the bigger picture.

Best recognised for workplace change and enterprise bargaining, Chris’ work has seen him at the forefront of engagements that matter. Countless employers have benefited from the pragmatic and solution-orientated advice that he is known for.

You may have seen him in Boss magazine, heard him on Qantas Q Radio or Foxtel’s Law TV. He is also famous for his collection of Elvis artefacts.

Photo of Erin Hawthorne Erin Hawthorne

Erin enjoys using the opportunities presented by difficult employment and industrial problems to deliver outcomes for her clients.

She has worked in both private practice and in-house roles and uses her experience of being a client to deliver the best legal strategy through…

Erin enjoys using the opportunities presented by difficult employment and industrial problems to deliver outcomes for her clients.

She has worked in both private practice and in-house roles and uses her experience of being a client to deliver the best legal strategy through a lens of practicality.

An experienced litigator representing employers when litigation is unavoidable or advantageous, she has the game plan needed to protect or attack.