Contractor rights and protections
Contractors have different workplace rights and protections to employees. Unlike employees, contractors are not entitled to a minimum wage or other minimum conditions of employment (such as paid leave if you get sick). However, they have some rights and protections and it is important for both contractors and their hirers to understand them.
Rights at work
Independent contractors work for themselves, and are usually engaged for a specific task or job. They typically operate with a higher level of control over the work they do. This means they have the right to accept or refuse a job, and may be able to decide the hours of work to complete a specific task.
Protections at work
Protections included in the Fair Work Act 2009 mean independent contractors are protected from:
- adverse action - for example a business cannot terminate a contract with an independent contractor because they make a complaint to a regulator about their workplace rights
- coercion - for example a business cannot threaten to take action against an independent contractor in order to coerce them not to exercise their workplace rights
- abuses of freedom of association - independent contractors are free to join, or not join, a trade union or employer group.
For more information on these protections, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.
The Independent Contractors Act 2006 allows independent contractors to ask a court to review a contract on grounds that it is 'unfair' or 'harsh'. In making this assessment, a court may consider:
- the terms of the contract when it was made
- the relative bargaining strengths of the parties to the contract and, if applicable, any person acting on behalf of the parties
- whether any undue influence or pressure was exerted upon, or any unfair tactics were used against, a party to the contract
- whether the contract provides total remuneration that is or is likely to be less than that of an employee performing similar work
- any other matters the court thinks is relevant.
A court has the power to order:
- the terms of the contract be changed (for example, terms may be added or removed)
- parts of the contract will have no effect
- the contract will be 'set aside' (which means the entire contract will no longer have any effect).
All workers in Australia are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace.
This means that employers - including self-employed contractors - are required to comply with the duties set out in the relevant state or territory's workplace health and safety laws.
For further information on the laws that apply in your state or territory, please contact the relevant workplace health and safety body:
|State and territory||Workplace health and safety body||Phone|
|New South Wales||SafeWork NSW||13 10 50|
|Victoria||WorkSafe Victoria||1800 136 089|
|Queensland||Workplace Health and Safety Queensland||1300 362 128|
|Western Australia||WorkSafe WA||1300 307 877|
|South Australia||SafeWork SA||1300 365 255|
|Tasmania||WorkSafe Tasmania||1300 366 322|
|Australian Capital Territory||WorkSafe ACT||02 6207 3000|
|Northern Territory||NT WorkSafe||1800 019 115|
|Commonwealth||Comcare||1300 366 979|