There have been times in my life where all I’ve needed is a foot in the door and a chance to prove myself. One such opportunity presented itself as a short term contract with a public service department when I was 26, and once I was able to show my worth on the job during that three month contract, I was able to demonstrate the skills and on-the-job knowledge I had learned in an interview and land the job permanently. From an entry level clerical position, I was promoted to an executive level over time.
If I hadn’t had the opportunity of a short term contract, I may not have taken this path at all. And the same goes for many others who join the public sector, or any other industry, as labour hire or short term contractors. The fact is, it’s the foot in the door we might need to prove to people that we are just as capable as anyone else.
Labour hire and short term contracts are labelled ‘insecure work’, and while those roles advertised as such provide businesses and organisations with the seasonal flexibility they might need, and provide people at a disadvantage with much needed income and experience, it is not well liked by the traditional industrial relations system. There have been numerous inquiries into the issue of insecure work over the last few years by nearly all states and territories in Australia, because there are companies which pop up on social media sites who exploit vulnerable workers.
Labour hire and short term contracts are also disliked by the traditional industrial relations system, as workers are often paid a loading on their wage rather than given leave, and entitlements are under the labour hire company’s applicable award rather than the employers enterprise agreement.
In the absence of proper and fair employment opportunities for people in our inclusion groups, ‘insecure’ work can be a desperately needed ‘in’.
Insecure work is advantageous to some people, for different reasons. For our inclusion groups, it offers firstly an opportunity to gain experience in an industry, while earning an income, and casual work (such as contracting for 3, 6 or 12 months to either an employer or under a labour hire arrangement) can also provide the opportunity to gain references, experience, and build a resume – leading to a better long term employment outcome.
Part time work suits many people with a disability who are managing a condition, carers who are balancing their caring responsibilities with working, and senior Australians who may want to work part-time as a lead in to retirement. Often, in our experience, a worker with a disability who has the opportunity to work in a non-ongoing role will not only receive the benefit of the experience and references, but will have better confidence in managing their condition while working, and better confidence in themselves and their skills and abilities.
More importantly, they will also change attitudes in the workplace, an often overlooked benefit to employing a person with a disability, opening up opportunities not only for themselves but for other people with a disability by challenging the stereotypes that exist around disability and working.
And a short term temporary role can also be a great interim measure for those leaving the Australian Defence Force, or their supporting family, who have accompanied that former Defence Force member on posting or had a forced break in work caring for children and holding down the home front while they were on active service.
Frankly, in the absence of targeted employment programs, there’s no equality in opportunity.
Employers, including government and private sector large enterprises, haven’t seen the light yet. In the absence of employment programs – such as suitably paid internships and traineeship programs – there’s no other way some people can access work opportunities.
Employers spend up on recruiting university graduates, and their first year on the job – rotating their work through different areas of their business to train them in every aspect of that company or organisation’s operations. Having invested in their training and development, and ensured their corporate knowledge is brought up to speed incredibly quickly, they have a valuable and knowledgeable worker who can be fast tracked into permanent work.
When it comes to people with a disability, ex-ADF, carers and seniors, there’s not a lot of investment going on.
Any system can fail
The enquiries being undertaken are a valuable insight into the way in which people who are vulnerable are being exploited, and they are, by disreputable companies which pop up one day on with an advertisement on social media and disappear the next. Particular industries with seasonal work are affected, such as fruit picking and retail around Christmas time.
It might surprise you to know that we comply with over 100 Acts and their associated Regulations around Australia as a recruitment company.
It becomes obvious that an unscrupulous operator in the industry can do whatever they like, because they don’t care about complying with the law. Exploiting vulnerable workers is simply too easy because the compliance is too complicated, and because people are desperate to work.
Enabled Employment’s position on insecure work
We’re arguing that if employers and government are going to cut out temporary and labour hire work, without substituting a program to hire veterans, their families, people with a disability, seniors and carers, then they’re cutting out the ‘foot in the door’ that people might need to start their career, or continue it after moving or caring for a person, or managing a condition, illness or disability.
There’s enough compliance measures built in to those 100+ Acts and Regulations around Australia to ensure there shouldn’t be disreputable and unethical operators in the labour hire market, IF the compliance is undertaken diligently by all parties. It is overly complex, though, and could be simplified to ensure better compliance.
Make sure you’re safe online
If you are considering inquiring about a job advertisement online, particularly on social media, always check the company advertising the job has a website, an Australian Business Number or Company Number, and a contact phone number. Enquire as to which Award the job is under, and what the rates of pay are – and the entitlements.
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam operator, contact the Fair Work Commission in your state or territory.