Federal government set to introduce gig worker laws

Tuesday, 29 August, 2023 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

The federal government recently announced that it will introduce new laws designed to protect gig workers through the introduction of minimum workplace standards.

Under the proposed legislation, “employee-like” workers on digital platforms (such as rideshare drivers and food delivery riders) will “no longer fall through the cracks”, according to Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke.

The change will be part of the government’s Closing Loopholes Bill, introduced into Parliament earlier this week.

“At least 13 gig workers have died on Australian roads in the last few years. That’s unacceptable,” said Minister Burke.

“We know there is a direct link between low rate of pay and safety: it leads to a situation where workers take risks so they can get more work because they’re struggling to make ends meet.

“We can’t continue to have a situation where the 21st-century technology of the gig platforms comes with 19th-century conditions.

“At the moment if you’re classed as an employee you have a whole lot of rights such as sick leave, annual leave and minimum rates of pay.”

Under the legislation:

  • The Fair Work Commission will be empowered to set minimum standards for employee-like workers in the gig economy. Employee-like workers will be those who perform work through a digital labour platform – such as in food delivery, ride share and the care economy.
  • Eligible parties will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for minimum standards orders that are tailored for the work performed under them.
  • The Fair Work Commission will have the discretion to consider a range of terms that may be included in an order, such as payment terms, working time, record-keeping and insurance.
  • The Commission will not set minimum standards on terms such as overtime rates, rostering arrangements and terms that would change how a worker is engaged. This ensures minimum standards will benefit workers without requiring them to forego the flexibility they value.
  • Employee-like workers will also be protected from unfair deactivation by digital labour platforms and will have the right to ask the Fair Work Commission to resolve disputes.


“We’re not trying to turn people into employees when they don’t want to be employees. A whole lot of gig workers like the flexibility from using this technology and that won’t change under our laws,” said Minister Burke.

“Our changes will in no way affect independent contractors who have a high degree of control and autonomy over their work, such as skilled tradespeople.

“This is about protecting workers who don’t meet the definition of ‘employee’ but who are not genuine small businesses either.”

Minister Burke said the legislation follows extensive consultation with more than 100 meetings with digital labour platforms, employer groups and unions since August last year.

However, business groups took issue with the proposed legislation and said the laws, if passed, would stamp out the practice of independent contracting.

“The Orwellian title, ‘Closing Loopholes Bill’, is more accurately the Closing Business Bill, because that is what will happen if it goes ahead unchanged,” said ACCI CEO, Andrew McKellar.

“The dead hand of regulation will strangle the innovation and entrepreneurship that independent skilled workers harness to grow their businesses.

“The dead hand has over-reached through sheer ignorance of how tradespeople and other contractors conduct their business today. They advertise their services online and the government has failed to adequately explain how their sweeping regulations will leave independent contractors alone.

“We cannot go back to the Yellow Pages era. For today’s tradespeople, new customers come to them online, and this proposal will create unnecessary legal complexity.

“These laws will impact tradespeople like builders, electricians and plumbers and other professionals who advertise their services online, and ultimately the consumers who go online to find those services.”

With no little regard for the millions of Australians who go online for rideshare, food delivery and myriad other services, McKellar said the legislation proposed by the government puts at risk the easy access that consumers want.

“The government also needs to explain how this will not create an additional burden on the National Disability Insurance Scheme if platform care workers are driven out of business.”