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Labour hire often involves a host organisation using workers from a labour hire agency, for a short period of time. These arrangements are sometimes referred to as “on-hire” or “agency” arrangements.

Labour hire arrangements are covered by the model WHS Act. They include:

  • arranging a worker for a short period of time to give relief due to staff shortages or
  • supplementing the workforce during peak seasonal demand.

Typically, labour hire workers are engaged by a labour hire agency which then on-hires them to do work for another organisation (the host organisation). Both the labour hire agency and the host organisation are persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) responsible for the health and safety of the labour hire worker.

Labour hire arrangements can be complex. Sometimes, there may be more than one labour hire PCBU or host PCBU. For example, one labour hire PCBU may provide workers to another labour hire PCBU which then supplies workers to a host PCBU.

All PCBUs should consider how the model WHS laws apply to them. More information is available in the Guidance – labour hire: duties of persons conducting a business or undertaking.

Ensuring the health and safety of labour hire workers

The primary duty of care under the model WHS Act is owed by a PCBU to a ‘worker’, which includes a labour hire worker.

All labour hire PCBUs and host PCBUs have a primary duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of labour hire workers engaged by, or caused to be engaged by them, or whose activities are influenced or directed by them.

If more than one person has a duty for the same matter, each person must meet their duty to the extent to which they have the capacity to influence and control the matter.

Labour hire PCBUs and host PCBUs must work together in a cooperative and coordinated way so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. A PCBU cannot contract out of or transfer their work health and safety obligations to another party.

Further advice

Safe Work Australia is a national policy body responsible for WHS and workers’ compensation arrangements. We do not regulate or enforce WHS or workers’ compensation laws.

It is important to consider the WHS laws that apply in your circumstances. To find out more, contact your WHS regulator. Where your business arrangements span multiple jurisdictions, you may need to contact more than one WHS regulator.

In most jurisdictions the labour hire PCBU (not the host PCBU) is responsible for providing workers’ compensation to the worker, however there are exemptions to this. Labour hire and host PCBUs should work together to coordinate return to work arrangements and support workers through the return to work process. It is important to contact your workers’ compensation authority for more information on understanding and complying with your workers’ compensation obligations, as penalties can apply.

Some jurisdictions have implemented a labour hire licensing scheme. Safe Work Australia cannot provide advice in relation to these schemes. It is your responsibility to identify whether these requirements apply to you.

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