#

NOW BlogRSS

The Team at NOW bring you topics of interest to owners of small businesses. Please feel free to leave a comment or let us know if there are particular topics you'd like us to cover.

Independent Contractors or Employees

The Team - Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Independent Contractors or Employees

It is your responsibility as a small business owner to ensure that you comply with the law regarding contractors vs employees. With a few exceptions, employees now have to be paid strictly in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009.

In many cases, businesses also legitimately engage contractors, but the ground rules on employment and contracting are changing and failure to comply with the legislation could be expensive for small businesses.

If you have any concerns about your employment practices it would be a good idea to get some assistance to ensure you comply.

Many businesses are not protected

Under the Fair Work Legislation and under the tax act you have to treat contractors and employees correctly or risk incurring fines and additional costs in back pay.

Many individuals prefer the flexibility of being paid as a contractor, and many employers strike mutually satisfactory deals with contractors which cost employers less than treating those contractors as employees.

Employers complain to us that:

a)   they can’t get people to work for them as employees and have to engage them as contractors and
b)   they’d be uncompetitive in their highly competitive market where everyone else pays their workers as subcontractors.

It’s not only the hourly rate which is at issue, there is also the matter of worker’s compensation insurance, PAYG tax, GST and superannuation and leave payments.

Sham Contracting can be expensive

Sham Contracting is where you pay people as contractors when they are really employees. The risks are substantial and you need to be aware that not only can you be fined up to $33,000 for each offence but you might receive a claim for unpaid PAYG tax and superannuation. An employee might also claim for back pay, including penalty rates, superannuation and leave entitlements.

So how do you determine whether someone is a true contractor or should be treated as an employee?

There is no definitive test to determine whether a subcontractor should be an employee and each set of circumstances needs to be examined. There are, however, certain guidelines

The Federal Government has published booklet titled “Independent Contractors: The Essential Handbook” (available as a free download from the Australian Government website)

This booklet is a comprehensive resource for both contractors and employers. In its own words: “This plain-English handbook goes a long way towards giving businesses and the independent contractors they engage a simple guide to the rules and regulations and the rights and obligations on both sides.”

Also on this web page is a link to a contractor decision tool to help you assess whether contractors are correctly classified.

There are a number of “tests” as to whether a contractor is a true contractor or an employee. One of the more significant tests relates to the question of who bears the risk. A contractor operates a business that produces a result for an agreed price and bears the risk. They are free to delegate the work to their employees (or other contractors) and are obligated to produce goods or services to a specification and a timeframe. If they fail to deliver they don’t get paid, whereas employees do not carry full risk and will (with some exceptions) in the short term continue to receive wages.

On the “Executive Stress Office Support” web site there is an excellent blog which sets out the current criteria for the classification of contractors. This is an extract

“Currently, the rules are that independent contractors (ICs) need to meet certain criteria before they can be deemed to be independent contractors. These include things like the services should be available to the public at large, not just the person/company to whom the services are currently being provided; the IC should be able to hire others to perform the work (sub-contractors); the IC should be able to work on more than one contract at a time; the client has little input into how the IC actually performs the services; and of course, the 80% rule: the IC should not receive more than 80% of their income from the one client.”

Read the full article by clicking here

This area of conflict between employment and contracting is important for many businesses and is subject to change and re-interpretation from time to time by both government and the Tax Office. Small business owners should check compliance from time to time to ensure that their practices are still correct.

Comments

Post a Comment




Captcha Image


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive

    The NOW Experience

    • An innovative and personalised approach to small business help and advice
    • Structured programmes and personal coaching to deliver more fun, cash, time and success to the owners of small business
    • Competitively priced consultancy and help to suit your budget
    Read More

    Latest NOW Blog

    1. Sell For Success 4 - the 4 No's The Team 12-Apr-2012
    2. Sell For Success 3 The Team 28-Feb-2012
    3. Sell For Success 2 The Team 14-Feb-2012
    4. Sell for Success 1 The Team 07-Feb-2012

    Latest NOW Forum

    No forum posts found.
    #