A Queensland magistrate has imposed the first conviction of a company under labour hire licensing legislation in Australia.
The Queensland Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017 began operation on 16 April 2018, with all existing labour hire companies required to file their licence applications with Labour Hire Licensing Queensland by no later than 15 June 2018. After that date, it is unlawful for a company to provide labour hire services without a licence.
To date, over 3,000 labour hire licences have been granted in Queensland (including 13 conditional licences) with only 11 applications refused, and 99 applications withdrawn after the applicants failed to provide sufficient information to demonstrate their compliance with workplace laws. Seven licences have been cancelled and 129 have been suspended for breaches of the legislation.
Victoria and South Australia have introduced similar licensing regimes, although they are both going through transition phases until 30 October and 1 November 2019 respectively (SA licence applications must be filed by 31 August 2019).
A&J Group Services Pty Ltd had initially applied for a labour hire licence but withdrew the application after failing to provide information regarding its compliance with various workplace laws. The company was warned by Labour Hire Licensing Queensland not to provide labour hire services in Queensland. However the company continued to operate surreptitiously and was caught supplying workers to a strawberry farm in Queensland’s Granite Belt in January 2019.
The magistrate imposed a fine of $60,000 which was high for a first offence (maximum penalty of $391,650). However, the magistrate noted the deliberate decision of the company to ignore the warning and flout the licensing requirements. There was no dispute that the company was a labour hire company and was caught by the legislation.
The company was exposed after a member of the public notified Labour Hire Licensing Queensland. Following this tip-off, Labour Hire Licensing Queensland issued a general warning to strawberry growers in the Granite Belt, pointing out they needed to check that their labour hire suppliers were licensed. There are heavy penalties of up to $400,000 for a corporation and $135,000 for individuals for hosts who engage a labour hire firm without confirming they are licensed. The best method of checking compliance is to conduct an online search of the Labour Hire Licensing Queensland website which contains a register of all licensed suppliers.
The conviction will have an additional long term sting for A&J Group Services Pty Ltd and its directors, as the conviction will adversely affect any future licence applications in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria should they seek to re-enter the labour hire industry.