Australia: Reality comes crashing down in House Rules workers compensation case

In brief - Contestant found to be employee of Seven Network and entitled to compensation

Reality TV contestants who undertake work should now be considered to be employees. Traditionally, the agreements that contestants signed strictly excluded them as employees.

In a recent decision of the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales, the Commission determined that a participant in the Seven Network reality TV show, House Rules, and her partner were in fact employees when undertaking activity as instructed for the reality TV show. Television networks must consider the implications of this decision and manage their risks accordingly.

Applicant felt harassed and bullied during filming, alleges she suffered psychological injury due to her employment with Seven Network

The Seven Network (Operations) Limited (Seven Network) produced House Rules is a home renovation reality TV show which pitches pairs of contestants against each other in order to win a prize at the end of the show.

The applicant and her partner each signed an Agreement and Release, which was prepared by the Seven Network, which paid the applicant the sum of $500 per week with a further allowance of $500 per week during their time on the show. The agreement stated in clear terms that they were not employees.

Late in 2016, the applicant and her partner were flown from Melbourne to Sydney for filming at various locations and at various times. The applicant has stated she felt harassed and bullied during the filming, which continued throughout all of the renovations, and that she felt it was not only condoned by the producer but was aggravated, even encouraged, by the producer.

During on-camera interviews, the applicant and her partner complained that they were being subjected to isolation and bullying and harassment by the other teams. On one occasion, the applicant witnessed her partner being physically assaulted. When such complaint was made to Channel Seven, she was threatened that her partner and herself would be portrayed negatively.

The applicant further stated that Channel Seven portrayed her partner and herself as bullies in the episode, which was aired on television in April 2017. Following the airing of the episode, the applicant was subjected to online abuse on the Channel Seven Facebook page, including receiving threats of serious physical assault. The applicant has stated she has been fearful for her safety ever since.

Since the episode and programme aired, the applicant has stated she has not been able to obtain work and has been informed this was due to how she was portrayed as a bully. The applicant has stated:

I am no longer offered interviews for jobs and work, which before my work injury I did not have any trouble obtaining interviews and successfully getting the work and job. I feel devastated and worthless about the loss of my career and working life.

The applicant alleged that she suffered a psychological injury arising out of the employment with Seven Network.

Commission's findings on contestant's status as worker under the Workers Compensation Act and injury suffered

The Commission, in taking into account the relevant indicia and examining the totality of the relationship, determined the applicant was an employee of Seven Network. The conduct of Seven Network in providing instructions of attendance times, clothing, rules to follow, how work was to be completed, provision of tools and exclusive use of the applicant, demonstrated the employment relationship.

Further, the Commission held that even if the applicant was not an employee, she would be a "Deemed Worker" pursuant to the Workers Compensation Act.

The Commission found that the applicant had suffered a psychological/psychiatric injury in the course of her employment with Seven Network.

Producers of reality TV must consider their work health and safety obligations

The applicant is also covered by the Work Health and Safety Act of NSW and the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Victoria.

Seven Network and Channel Seven have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers and others as part of their business or undertaking.

It is evident that any business which creates a risk of bullying and harassment within its business operations, must take steps to manage such risk. Businesses should manage the risk of bullying and harassment by implementing an appropriate policy which is relevant for the workplace. The existence of bullying and harassment has been held to be a breach of the relevant safety laws.

For example, in the matter of Monjon (Australia) Pty Ltd & John Moncrief v Worksafe in Victoria, the company was fined $97,000 and the managing director convicted and fined $19,250 where the managing director used racist and sexist language to the company employees over a two year period.

Greg McCann Laura Driscoll
Work health and safety
Colin Biggers & Paisley

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions