Fair Work on Brisbane’s Build Sites: Addressing Labour Issues

Unravel labour challenges in Brisbane’s construction scene. Secure worker rights and foster harmonious sites with legal insights.

By John Christian – November 13, 2023
fair work 1 - Victor Legal

Addressing labour issues on your building site is not a small task. In June of last year 1,221,000 people were employed in the construction industry. That number is expected to rise to at least 1.26 million employees by 2025. 

This is a huge number of employees working on job sites each year. And a huge number of people that could potentially be impacted by labour and employment issues. 

To protect your employees, and yourself, you need ensure that your workplace is fair and safe for your employees. To do this you’ll have to understand your workers’ rights, and implement practices to protect them. You’ll also need to have a good understanding of labour laws and ensure that you’re in compliance with those laws. Ultimately, might need to also deal with employment disputes, both internally and through mediation, arbitration or even litigation.

An expert construction lawyer can help you to do this well.

In this article:

  1. Ensuring fairness on the building site
  2. Adhering to labour laws
  3. Resolving employment disputes

Achieving fairness on site

As an employer your job is to achieve fairness on the job site. While you are certainly entitled to (and should!) protect your own rights, you’re also obligated to protect your employees’ rights as well.

Protecting the rights of workers is essential to creating a thriving, healthy and safe workforce. A wide range of issues can arise on a job site, affecting many different roles from full-time employees to subcontractors, apprentices and even work experience students. All of these different types of workers have rights on the building site.

WorkSafe consolidates workers’ rights in Queensland. These include:

  • The right to a safe and healthy work environment, including:
    • Safe machinery
    • Safe structures
    • Proper instruction and training
    • Proper supervision
    • Access to necessary safety equipment
    • The right to consult with your employer about safety issues
    • Access to worker’s compensation when required
    • The right to speak up about work conditions
    • The right to say no to unsafe work

Workers are also entitled to fair pay for their work and mandated leave and other entitlements and super payments. There are rules around end-of-year site shutdowns, penalty and overtime rates and more on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

It’s also important to note that independent contractors and employees have different rights and obligations which you must meet if you engage these types of workers.

Adhering to labour laws on the build site

In a staggering revelation reported by the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2020, almost half (48%) of the 1217 businesses audited were in breach of labour laws.

Given the severe repercussions of non-compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act), adhering to labour laws on your build site is vital. But ensuring you’re compliant, doesn’t have to be difficult.

  • Step 1. Understand your obligations to your employees, such as those identified above, and hold valid Worker’s Compensation Insurance.
  • Step 2. Consider adopting an accredited workplace safety management system. These systems are designed to diminish potential hazards and strengthen your compliance.
  • Step 3. Review your workplace policies regularly. An experienced construction lawyer can ensure your policies are aligned with the Fair Work Act and Fair Work Commission standards.
  • Step 4. Look beyond compliance and cultivate an environment where employees feel valued and can openly discuss concerns.

Resolving employment disputes

Despite your best efforts to ensure a fair and safe building site, sometimes employment disputes will still arise. These can include issues related to payment, discrimination, unfair dismissal or wrongful termination, as well as health and safety issues, among many others. 

Of course, the best way to resolve any employment dispute is to stop the dispute from arising in the first place. But when that fails, you’ll want to take steps to resolve it. Fair Work Ombudsman provides some suggestions, including:

  • Giving an explanation to the other party
  • Paying any entitlements that are owed
  • Rectifying the unsafe or other situation
  • Updating your policies
  • Providing training
  • Reaching out to Fair Work for help

In all cases, having the support of an experienced construction lawyer, who can provide guidance, ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations and explore dispute resolution options is invaluable.

Of course, sometimes employment disputes may go beyond what you can resolve internally. You may need to go to mediation, arbitration or even result to litigation. In these cases you’ll want to get support from legal counsel who can help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and assist you to achieve favourable outcomes.

How Victor Legal can help

As expert construction lawyers, we’re able to help you address labour and employment issues particular to the construction industry. We’ll take the time to assess your situation, help you take legal action if it is advisable to do so and guide you every step of the way.

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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