Regulation of labour hire arrangements: A study of Queensland labour hire agencies

Graham, Daniel (2007). Regulation of labour hire arrangements: A study of Queensland labour hire agencies PhD Thesis, T.C. Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland.

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Author Graham, Daniel
Thesis Title Regulation of labour hire arrangements: A study of Queensland labour hire agencies
School, Centre or Institute T.C. Beirne School of Law
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Dr Andrew Greinke
Total pages 265
Collection year 2007
Language eng
Subjects 1606 Political Science
Formatted abstract
Labour hire has been described as a unique phenomenon of our times. As a response to a changing economic, managerial and regulatory environment, it represents a controversial area of great legal, industrial and social significance. It now represents an emerging and established part of the employment scene in Australia and internationally. It is thus timely and relevant to investigate its operation and the rules that apply to it. As a work form labour hire is a tripartite arrangement between a labour hire agency, client organisation and worker, whereby the agency hires out for fee a worker to perform work for a client, mostly on a casual basis.

This thesis develops a theory for the rapid growth of labour hire both here in Australia and overseas, and seeks to explain the increasing attraction of labour hire for business organisations. The thesis also draws out the tensions that exist between labour hire and the traditional common law employment tests that are supposed to govern it. At present there is little information on how labour hire agencies operate and are regulated. This project addresses this shortfall to fill this gap in the legal literature.

Research into the growth of the labour hire market is important, because of the marked rise in the use of labour hire compared with previous employment patterns in Australia. In particular the use of labour hire agencies for the engagement of labour has enjoyed a growth in the last decade in Australia. In the last five years too there has been a dramatic interest in labour hire for governments in Australia, with major inquiries undertaken by Commonwealth and State governments as the general effects of labour hire. The general findings in those inquiries have been tied in to the more specific findings of this study.

This thesis has three objectives. Firstly to show that because of its unique tripartite nature, a labour hire situation is counter to or is antithetical to the notions and concepts of the traditional common law employment situation, and that the standard common law employment tests (even allowing for judicial flexibility) are under strain when applied to it. 

Secondly to explain the growth of labour hire as a reaction to the impact of regulation, of adding further costs and obligations on employers. As a consequence of this, there are incentives for employers to go to less or largely unregulated labour markets such as labour hire, which offer the prospect of potentially cheaper labour costs overall, and more importantly immunity from the legal obligations of an employer, such as unfair dismissal and workers' compensation obligations. Such a trend has led to the situation of a primary core market of employees, and a secondary market of employees with fewer privileges.

Thirdly to obtain empirical information about labour hire in Queensland using extensive exploratory field work interviews with labour hire agencies, peak business groups, unions and some labour hire workers. The results from this research support the above propositions. 

In the empirical study the author paid particular attention to obtaining information on the following issues -to what extent labour hire arrangements are used; what types of labour hire arrangements are entered into; when labour hire arrangements are used; why labour hire arrangements are used; the impact of labour hire on occupational health and safety and other issues; what are the problems associated with labour hire; and what legal instruments are used in relation to labour hire. It is shown in the thesis that the application of common law employment principles to labour hire is problematic in a number of areas such as unfair dismissal of a worker, vicarious liability and anti-discrimination legislation.
In addition the research fieldwork conducted backs up American and Australian theories and evidence, that a prime factor in the expansion of labour hire is the increasing regulatory impact on standard employment. The work supports American studies which contend that a major reason for the use of flexible (labour hire) staffing is to avoid the mandated costs associated with standard labour. The thesis also promotes greater recognition of the possible unintended consequences of regulation of employment. The imposition of perceived increasing regulatory burdens has had the effect of forcing employing organisations into less onerous alternative labour markets such as labour hire, where an increasing number of workers enjoy less security of tenure.

The preceding findings show that common assumptions that labour hire is just a creature of economic and managerial concerns are incomplete. The results therefore make an important contribution to the understanding of the concept of labour hire. Implications about the nature of labour hire will be drawn in the concluding chapter, including the need for correction of anomalies and the need for regulation of labour hire.
Keyword Labor -- Laws and legislation -- Queensland
Labor contractors -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Queensland
Labor contractors -- Queensland
Employment agencies -- Laws and legislation -- Queensland
Employment agencies -- Queensland.
Industrial relations -- Queensland.
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Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 16:36:21 EST