Do contractors have the same rights as employees?

With the COVID-19 outbreak affecting the economy and job market, an increasing number of Australians are becoming full-time or part-time contractors. The fact that thousands are choosing to contract over the lure of fixed jobs, incomes, and hours speaks volumes about the advantages that the field of contracting has to offer for both the contractor and the employer. 

So, what do employers need to know about engaging contractors? What are their legal rights and are they any different to employees? 

Who is considered a contractor?

Contractors are individuals who work on a contract basis to provide materials, services, or products. They are paid on an hourly or daily basis, unlike employees who get paid a regular salary. In terms of responsibilities, a contractor’s job profile is similar to that of a regular employee, except that they usually earn more as they will often forfeit typical entitlements that regular employees take for granted. 

Contractors differ from employees in several ways:

  • Contractors have more control over their work than employees who work under the direction of their employers.
  • Contractors are responsible for their risks, profits, or loss while employees enjoy a regular salary independent of company performance (except in the case of cutbacks).
  • Contractors do not enjoy superannuation benefits, unlike employees, except in a few cases,
  • Contractors pay their tax and GST to the government while employees receive their taxes after deducting income tax. An employer cannot withhold the taxes of a contractor. 
  • Contractors are not entitled to annual, sick, long, personal carers, or extended leave.

Contractors are often exposed to new skills and environments during the course of their work. The employer can dismiss the contractor, or the contractor can discontinue working without due process.

However, a number of disputes and problems may arise if the contract agreement is unfair, broken, or breached.

What rights do contractors have?

The Fair Work Act of 2009 protects independent contractors from unlawful and unfair practices. For example, an employer cannot force a contractor to forego their rights, and contractors cannot be coerced into unlawful contracts containing unreasonable terms. Contractors are entitled to control over their work, fair hours of work, and may work on multiple projects, but must operate under the obligations and duties listed out in the contract agreement. 

Similarly, contractors are free to join or not join an employer or union group. A court may cancel an agreement if the contractor was forced to sign it under undue pressure or if the terms of service contravene Australian laws. 

When can the line between contractor and employee become blurred?

There are several instances where a contractor may actually be considered an employee for tax or superannuation purposes. This is to prevent employers from unfairly employing people on a contract basis simply to avoid paying tax or superannuation. Check out the ATO’s Employee/Contractor Decision Tool to determine how your team members should be classified and what your obligations may be.

Rolf Howard, Managing Partner, Owen Hodge Lawyers

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Public health agency president says employee’s trip to Jamaica was ‘unacceptable’

The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is “unacceptable” that one of the agency’s managers ignored advice and vacationed in Jamaica last fall.

Iain Stewart said that although the trip taken by Dominique Baker in November was not related to her work for the federal agency, its employees are expected to heed public health advice not to travel.

Baker has now removed a blog post from her personal style blog and videos from her Instagram account about an all-expenses paid trip she took to an expensive resort in Montego Bay in November.

Her bosses were alerted to the trip just as a series of stories emerged about politicians and health officials ignoring the warning not to travel while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

Baker is the manager of the office of border and travel health — a Public Health Agency of Canada program tasked with keeping communicable diseases out of Canada and reducing public health risks to travellers.

Baker has not responded to an email requesting comment.

Her trip was paid for by Air Canada Vacations as part of its work hiring social media “influencers” to promote their tours. The November 24 blog post Baker published about the trip is no longer online.

The federal public health agency “takes these matters very seriously,” Stewart said.

“PHAC has consistently told Canadians they should avoid travel during the pandemic,” he said. “To have employees disregard this travel advice is unacceptable. As a general principle, we expect PHAC employees to encourage Canadians to follow public health advice, not to engage in non-essential travel.”

He said the agency became aware of the trip after photos were posted on social media as part of a campaign to promote international vacations.

“When the situation was brought to PHAC’s attention, the matter was acted upon immediately and a review was initiated. We will not comment further to respect the employee’s privacy.”

Baker’s videos included a description of what it was like to fly during the pandemic, and the precautions taken by the airline and the hotel to keep people safe.

Stewart also was asked whether there was an ethical issue with an employee accepting a free trip. He said the agency has a Values and Ethics Code which requires employees to declare any “real, potential or apparent” conflict of interest.

Stewart did not say if Baker is being disciplined for the trip, or if she declared any conflict related to it.

In the last two weeks, the list of federal and provincial politicians and health officials whose international vacations have gone public has grown long. Several MPs and provincial legislature members and staffers have been demoted from cabinet or have lost roles on committees and as cabinet aides as a result.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed frustration earlier this week about Canadian politicians who were failing to lead by example and ignoring the request not to travel internationally.

Canada’s border is closed to non-essential travellers, but there is nothing stopping Canadians from leaving if they wish. Canada cannot stop Canadians from returning, though they must quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival back in Canada.

As of Tuesday, all international travellers coming to Canada must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test but still must quarantine upon arrival.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday Canada does not want to join the small list of countries that require citizens to get permission before leaving the country, but he said anything that helps convince Canadians not to travel right now is “something we’re prepared to look at.”

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Finnish restaurant giant to cut 55 jobs, temporarily lay off 600 employees

NOHO PARTNERS, a company operating more than 200 restaurants in Finland, has announced its decision to eliminate 55 positions, temporarily lay off around 600 employees and convert 15 positions from permanent to temporary.

The cost-cutting measures were ironed out in consultative negotiations initiated by the restaurant giant with its entire staff of 1,300 in October 2020.

The exact number of temporarily laid off employees and the duration of the lay-offs will be specified at a later date.

Noho Partners said the aim of the statutory process was to re-organise its organisation primarily in regard to management and supervisory duties. The positions to be cut include management positions, administrative restaurant positions and expert positions in sales and marketing.

The company argued last autumn that the cost-cutting measures are required due to the strict measures adopted to combat the coronavirus epidemic in Finland. The goal of the measures, it said, was to minimise the financial effects of the pandemic and adjust its operations to the decline in volume caused by the restrictions.

Noho Partners’ restaurants in Finland include Elite, Savoy and Stefan’s Steakhouse.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India rolls out VRS to employees

Country’s largest scooter maker Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) on Tuesday introduced a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for its employees above the age of 40 or who have completed 10 years in the company.

The company said it is realigning its production strategy for improved overall operational efficiency with the objective of ‘long term business sustainability’ in these uncertain times.

“In order to maintain existence in this competitive two-wheeler market, it is essential to continue with high effiency and competitiveness. Therefore, keeping in view all the above reasons, the management has introduced a ‘VRS’ for all the associates who want to retire voluntarily from the company before their fixed retirement age, so that they can be relieved from the company gracefully,” Naveen Sharma, Division Head – General Affairs, HMSI, said in a letter to the employees.

BusinessLine has seen the letter.

ALSO READ: Honda Motorcycle sales increase 5% in December

The Directors of the company are not eligible under this scheme, he wrote.

The scheme will be effective from January 5 and will remain open till January 23. However, the management at its discretion can change the scheme without prior information or notice and may extend its time period, the letter said.

The Management will have full authority to decide in this regard, it said.


As benefits, HMSI has calculated the formula as — three months gross salary into completed year of service, one month’s basic plus Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) into remaining year of service — and ex-gratia of ₹22,000 into completed year of service.

The first 400 accepted applicants will get ‘early bird incentive’ of ₹5 lakh each and if VRS application exceeds 400, additional ₹4 lakh will be paid to all the applicants, the letter said.

ALSO READ: Honda Motorcycle to go slow on India investment

However, the company has also capped the maximum amount for applicants for permanent workmen and Junior Engineer (JE) and above. For instance, for Senior Manager or Vice-President, it has capped at ₹72 lakh, for Manager ₹67 lakh, for Deputy Manager at ₹48 lakh and ₹15 lakh for Assistant Executive.

The scheme will automatically close after January 23, it added.

Started in 2001, HMSI has production facilities at Manesar (Haryana), Alwar (Rajasthan), Narsapura(Karnataka) and Vithalapur (Gujarat) with a combined capacity of 6.4 million units annually.

The ‘Activa’ maker has more than 4,000 employees in Manesar alone.

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Google employees unionize, escalating tension with management

Employees of Google and parent company Alphabet Inc. announced the creation of a union on Monday, escalating years of confrontation between workers and management of the Internet giant.

The Alphabet Workers Union said it will be open to all employees and contractors, regardless of their role or classification. It will collect dues, pay organizing staff, and have an elected board of directors.

The unionizing effort, a rare campaign within a major U.S. technology company, is supported by the Communications Workers of America as part of a recent tech-focused initiative known as CODE-CWA. Googlers who join the Alphabet Workers Union will also be members of CWA Local 1400. The group, which represents more than 200 workers in the U.S., plans to take on issues including compensation, employee classification and the kinds of work Google engages in.

“We will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values,” Dylan Baker, software engineer at Google, said in a statement.

A letter from the union organizers published in the New York Times said workplace concerns at the company have been dismissed by executives for too long. Google has clashed with some employees in recent years over contracts with the military, the different treatment of contract workers and a rich exit package for an executive ousted for alleged sexual harassment.

“We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce,” said Kara Silverstein, director of people operations at Google, in a statement. “Of course our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

A successful Alphabet union could limit executives’ authority, while inspiring similar efforts across Silicon Valley, which has mostly avoided unionization so far. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union filed paperwork in November to represent frontline workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama. The company’s U.S. warehouse workers currently aren’t unionized. A vote among the more than 5,000 workers at the site is expected in the coming weeks.

The announcement didn’t specify whether the new organization will try to secure majority support among Alphabet’s workforce, formal recognition by Alphabet or collective bargaining with the company, a process that has been aggressively resisted by U.S. corporations. CWA’s membership includes some workers, such as public university employees in Tennessee, who engage in collective action while lacking legal collective bargaining rights.

Google worker protests in 2018 forced the company to let a Pentagon artificial intelligence contract lapse. Employee uprisings also led the company to limit the use of forced arbitration that same year.

CWA has been supporting Google activists since at least 2019, when the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging workers were fired for taking collective action. In December, the agency’s general counsel took up some of those allegations, accusing Google of illegally firing, interrogating and surveilling activist employees. Google has denied wrongdoing, saying it supports workers’ rights and that the employees in question were punished for “serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:

  • Intuit’s CEO on the $7.1 billion Credit Karma acquisition, reorienting toward A.I., and reskilling workers
  • Commentary: The broken business model of Uber and Lyft is taking a heavy toll on society
  • WarnerMedia Studios chief on the controversial decision to release new movies on HBO Max
  • Look out for these new smartphone features in 2021
  • LinkedIn saw a massive influx in user posts and violations this year

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All employees should have ‘tech roles’ in today’s enterprise

  • Demand for tech talent has evolved rapidly since the start of the pandemic. 
  • The only way to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis; companies should reskill their workforces so every employee is well versed in technology.

Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to a more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.

Undeniably, this year’s pandemic has presented us with the vast opportunity to change — rapidly in order to survive. As Winston Churchill once said, we should never waste a good crisis. Perhaps this is the biggest gift of the current pandemic, that it provides us with the opportunity to rethink our potential and ensure that we are positioning ourselves toward the future

While the future is more ambivalent and uncertain than ever, inevitably the future is to focus on reskilling and upskilling people so that they are better equipped to adjust to change. In a 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report, it was estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14% of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. 

However, a more recent McKinsey Global Survey indicated that 87% of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But less than half of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem.

Include all employees in “technology roles”

To be frank, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more urgent. Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities

But, with a growth mindset and the opportunities to reskill and upskill, it is no longer as difficult for people who are not technically-trained to contribute to technology-driven innovations. Take Singapore for instance. Recently communications and Information Minister S Iswaran recently said at Parliament that while technology talent in Singapore has grown by about 10,000 year-on-year and he reckons demand for tech talent will continue to outstrip supply. 

To put it into context, prior to Covid-19, the Infocomm Media Development Authority projected that Singapore’s demand for technology talent will increase by another 61,600 by 2021. That said, Covid has only widened this gap as the demand for tech talent to help companies compete in a digital world increases.  In fact, despite the Singapore job market showing small declines due to the pandemic, financial institutions are still moving forward and continuing to hire tech talent, according to Financial Services Tech Job report.

Tech talent continues to be a hot commodity 

In a recent LinkedIn Business’ report, tech positions are among the most in-demand jobs with the fastest-growing demand. “Cloud Engineer jumped 12 spots in our rankings of the most in-demand roles, making it the job with the seventh-most job posts on LinkedIn in November,” it stated, attributing it to the working from home culture. “The cloud services that remote workers rely on have never been so business-critical.”

But cloud computing professionals aren’t alone — technical roles like Oracle Specialist, User Interface Designer, and all kinds of developers also saw big spikes in demand over the past month. As expected, tech companies have done relatively well during the pandemic, but it’s not just the tech sector hiring tech talent. Companies in virtually all industries have a greater need for engineering as they’ve had to pivot to more online operations — accelerating a trend that’s been growing for years.


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Canberra massage parlour owner accused of threatening to kill employees’ families denies wrongdoing

The former owner of a Canberra massage business has denied doing anything wrong after being accused of threatening to have the families of his employees killed if they spoke up about alleged unfair working conditions.

Foot and Thai Massage, its former owner Colin Elvin and another man, Jun Millard Puerto, are being pursued by the Fair Work Ombudsman in the Federal Court over alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act.

The business is now in liquidation and has debts of more than $1 million, including $400,000 owed to the Australian Tax Office and more than $600,000 to the unpaid workers.

The allegations against the company and the two men include that they underpaid seven workers between June 2012 and January 2016.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the workers were required to work unreasonable hours, that they were not paid annual leave or other entitlements and that appropriate payment records were not kept.

Foot and Thai massage is in liquidation and the site is now under new ownership.(ABC News: Pedro Ribeiro)

At the time the court action was announced, then-fair work ombudsman Natalie James described it as containing “some of the most shocking allegations of exploitation” the agency had ever seen.

“We allege that the threats made to these employees were ongoing while they were in Australia and designed to conceal the way they were being callously exploited,” she said.

“This type of conduct has no place in Australia and it deserves utter condemnation and appropriate sanctioning.”

Boss claims allegations are made up

In a hearing in the Federal Court on Friday, lawyers for the Ombudsman also detailed allegations Mr Elvin had told the women, through Mr Puerto, that if they complained he would send them back to the Philippines.

He allegedly said in some cases the workers’ families would be killed if they disclosed their working conditions to the government.

But Mr Elvin told the court that wasn’t true.

Mr Elvin said the wording of the complaints were remarkably similar.

“There was a follow-the-leader pattern,” he said.

Mr Elvin also took issue with claims he had not met his obligations to provide fair pay and conditions under the award.

He told the court his workers should not have been paid under the Hair and Beauty Award since none had an Australian massage qualification.

Lawyers for the Ombudsman have told the Federal Court a second group of six workers were made to pay back $800 a fortnight when the business was not doing well.

The court heard that was not recorded on the payslips, which is also a breach of workplace laws.

The case has seen long delays, partly because of COVID-19.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is hoping to claim back the money owed to the workers, as well as imposing substantial fines.

A decision in the case is expected next year.

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Grab tells employees it’s ‘in a position to acquire’ after Gojek merger report

SINGAPORE: The CEO of Singapore ride-hailing company Grab told employees in an internal note on Thursday (Dec 3) that the firm is in a position to make acquisitions, following a report it is close to a merger with regional rival Gojek. 

The two firms have made substantial progress in talks to merge Southeast Asia’s two most valuable startups, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

Sources familiar with the matter have previously told Reuters that over the last few years, large investors of the two companies have backed a merger of both loss-making firms.

READ: Competition watchdog lifts measures on Grab as private-hire regulatory framework takes effect

“There is speculation again about a Gojek deal,” Anthony Tan told employees in a note on the company’s internal communication platform, seen by Reuters.

“Our business momentum is good, and as with any market consolidation rumours, we are the ones in a position to acquire.”

Tan did not give any specifics about a potential deal with Gojek. Grab declined comment on Tan’s note and the media report. Gojek declined comment.

Grab, Southeast Asia’s biggest start-up, is now valued at more than US$15 billion, Reuters reported in October, according to a source familiar with the matter. 

Gojek’s worth has been estimated at US$10 billion. 

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Google illegally fired two activist employees, federal labor board alleges

Google illegally spied on several workers involved in labor organizing activities and then fired two of them, the National Labor Relations Board said in a complaint it plans to file Wednesday.

Last year, the tech giant said it had fired Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers for allegedly violating its data security policies. In fact, their firing was intended to quell workplace activism through intimidation, according to Laurie Burgess, the NLRB lawyer handling the case.

The employees were among several who had criticized Google over workplace issues including its hiring of union-busting firm IRI Consultants and contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The board will seek the reinstatement of the two employees along with damages for them. An administrative judge will determine the outcome.

Google responded to the planned complaint by saying it stands by its actions and that it takes “information security very seriously.”

“We’re confident in our decision and legal position,” the company said in a statement. “Actions undertaken by the employees at issue were a serious violation of our policies and an unacceptable breach of a trusted responsibility.”

The news comes as Google grapples with employees who have increasingly spoken out against management, such as its handling of sexual misconduct as well as authorizing work on a censored search engine for China. In 2018, thousands of Google staffers went to the unprecedented length of staging a walkout to protest the use of arbitration in sexual misconduct cases. 

On Wednesday Berland and Spiers took to Twitter to applaud the NLRB for its complaint and to reiterate that they were fired unfairly.

“Just over a year ago, Google fired me, falsely claiming I violated data access policies, even though the documents and calendars in question were accessible by any employee,” Berland tweeted. “My coworkers and friends knew it was bullshit, and that’s what matters most.”

Spiers called for workers to unite to “tackle the power of the tech giants.” 

“It’s the only way to hold them accountable,” Spiers said. 

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:

  • China’s “Amazon of services” says it welcomes Beijing’s stricter oversight
  • Meet Rumble, the YouTube rival that’s popular with conservatives
  • How a company best known for playing games used A.I. to solve one of biology’s greatest mysteries
  • How water-resistant is the iPhone? Italian watchdog says Apple’s claims are overblown
  • In a major scientific breakthrough, A.I. predicts the exact shape of proteins

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Daimler awards 1,000 euro ‘corona bonus’ to German employees

December 1, 2020

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German carmaker Daimler on Tuesday said it will pay German employees a 1,000 euros “corona bonus” to help compensate for personal and economic burdens such as having to wear a mask and working from home.

“Due to Corona, 2020 was a particularly challenging year. During this extraordinary time the company could always count on the flexibility and willingness of our workforce,” Daimler’s personnel chief Wilfried Porth said in a statement.

Around 160,000 employees in Germany are eligible for the bonus, the Stuttgart-based carmaker, which also owns the Mercedes-Benz brand, said.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor, editing by Louise Heavens)

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