BlandsLaw - Blog posts from contractor vs employee
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Recognising a ‘sham’ contract

A sham contract refers to an agreement in which an employer attempts to disguise an employment relationship as an independent contractor arrangement. This is done with the intention ofavoiding paying employee entitlements such as superannuation, workers compensation, leave, and certain taxes. Doing this not only significantly reduces costs, but also eliminates an employer’s vicarious liability for the wrongdoing of itsemployees.

However, employers should think twice before presuming they have found a loophole in the system;these arrangements are punishable under the sham contracting provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009, and companies can face a hefty fine of up to $54,000 in the event of a breach. In addition, employers may also be liable for underpayment claims, payroll tax, superannuation payments and be exposed to unfair dismissal claims.

In a recent case heard by FWC[1], it was determined that a worker had access to unfair dismissal after it was found he wasmisrepresented as an independent contractor when in reality he was an employee.The FWC stated that the employer

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The Federal Circuit Court has imposed a record $238,920 penalty on a company providing an airport shuttle service from Newcastle to Sydney airport, for underpaying its drivers. 

Interestingly, the Fair Work investigation arose not from an employee complaint, but as part of a national compliance campaign focussed on sham contracting. The penalty imposed was made up partly of breaches relating to misrepresentation of employees as contractors, and partly for failing to meet award requirements.

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Employee or Independent Contractor? It's Not the Title That Counts

The recent case of Kuat Chee v Renown Business Solutions Pty Ltd [2012] FWA 5137 (9 July 2012)  addressed the difficult topic of when a contractor is truly a contractor, and when they are properly classified as an employee.

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