Joint Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Job Security

RLC and Kingsford Legal Centre have jointly made submissions to the Senate Select Committee on Job Security, calling for reforms to increase access to secure employment, and ensure that all workers receive strong legal protections.

The Inquiry was established to examine the effectiveness, application and enforcement of existing laws, policies designed to protect workers, and to investigate insecure or precarious employment in Australia – including the ‘gig’ and ‘on-demand’ economy – and how COVID-19 has exacerbated insecure or precarious work conditions.

Our joint submission focuses on the terms of reference of the Inquiry as they apply to our client base of vulnerable workers: young people, women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability, and migrant workers - refugees, asylum seekers, international students, temporary visa holders, and other newly-arrived migrants.

Our clients are disproportionately impacted by insecure or precarious employment and are especially vulnerable and require special consideration to ensure they are protected from workplace exploitation in Australia. Reflecting on our work with these clients, we submit that the law is not responding adequately to the needs of these workers.

Our submission draws heavily on the submission of WEstjustice Community Legal Centre, the Migrant Employment Legal Service, and Redfern Legal Centre's International Student Service NSW to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics Inquiry into Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration, and is endorsed by Community Legal Centres NSW. 

We make 29 recommendations for law and policy reform to protect all workers equally, regardless of the nature of their employment. We support law reform measures that respond and address these underlying causes and remove the structures that lead to exploitation.

An overarching recommendation of our submission is that Australian governments should pursue law and policy reform to maximise access to secure employment, and ensure that all workers receive strong legal protections, regardless of the nature of their employment.

In recognition of the fact that migrant workers often fear reporting workplace exploitation due to fears of putting their visa status at risk, we recommend that the Department of Home Affairs should stop holding migrant workers strictly liable for breaches of visa work conditions, and instead adopt a proportionate system of penalties, such as a decision-making protocol for the department to use to issue workers with a warning or an administrative fine or civil penalty instead of having their visas cancelled.

We also call on government to provide recurrent funding to CLCs to coordinate and deliver a tailored Community Legal Education program to marginalised workers, including community leaders and community workers, to raise awareness of laws and services that can assist and prevent exploitation.

Other recommendations include:

  • casual workers should accrue leave on a pro-rata basis in a similar way to part-time workers
  • an enforceable right for long term casual workers to be offered ongoing employment
  • strict limits on how long a worker can be employed on fixed-term contracts before they must be offered an ongoing role
  • eligibility requirements of the Fair Entitlement Guarantee should be expanded to include all workers, including temporary visa holders
  • stronger protections against redundancies and stand-downs that are not genuine and/or are used to evade employer obligations.

Download RLC and Kingsford Legal Centre's joint submission​  (21 April 2021)

See also: Joint Submission: Senate Standing Committee on Economics Inquiry into Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration (6 March 2020)