Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
Most businesses that employ staff across states must comply with
up to eight different work health and safety regulatory
It's a complicated, red-tape heavy system.
But a bill before Parliament could change that if it is
A Senate committee last week gave the green light to the federal
government's Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation
Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, saying big changes to the existing
system are "necessary to significantly reduce compliance
costs, simplify processes and boost productivity and efficiency for
businesses that operate and employ across multiple
The proposed changes will see a significant streamlining of WHS
obligations for businesses that operate in more than one of the
country's states or territories.
As things stand under current laws, few organisations are able
to satisfy the legislative requirements to obtain self-insurance
under the Comcare scheme and coverage under the Commonwealth Work
Health and Safety Act.
This is because it relies on a highly subjective and largely
irrelevant "competition" test, which restricts licensees
to current and privatised Commonwealth authorities and businesses
that compete with them.
The net effect is that multi-state employers who are not
licensees are required to comply with up to eight different WHS
National harmonisation of WHS legislation has already been
pursued, yet substantial differences in state-based regimes and the
approaches taken by distinct regulatory bodies are still
Many of Australia's largest businesses are forced to manage
compliance with often complex and burdensome regulations across the
various jurisdictions in which they operate.
For example, under the current system, a national logistics
operator has to implement a range of policies and procedures that
accommodate varying safety standards from state to state and their
long-haul drivers need to be aware of their differing personal
responsibilities and obligations as they travel down the Hume
Highway and cross the border from Albury to Wodonga.
If the SRC Bill becomes law the "competition" test
will be abolished in favour of a new "national employer"
test. This entails a corporation being required to meet obligations
under workers' compensation law in at least two Australian
jurisdictions, being a self-insurer, or being a self-insured
employer in at least two Australian jurisdictions.
Multi-state employers which are able to satisfy this test will
be eligible to self-insure under the Comcare scheme (subject to
other financial thresholds and standards being met) and be covered
by the Commonwealth WHS Act irrespective of the locality in which
they are operating.
Given the significant financial undertakings licensees have to
give, this scheme may not be for everyone. But for those employers
who opt in, the beauty really will be in its simplicity – a
nationally consistent WHS regime governed by a single national
With strong recommendations in favour of the SRC Bill being put
forward by numerous parties, including the Department of Employment
and the Senate committee, and limited opposition, it is likely the
bill will pass.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or
change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute
for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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