Contractor or employee? Slip-ups can be costly, women warned

The Women in Business Regional Network has returned to Murray Bridge for a talk on a murky topic by Evelyn Pollard.

This post was contributed by the Women in Business Regional Network.

The differences between contractors and employees have come into focus at a return to Murray Bridge for the Women in Business Regional Network.

The Swanport Hotel hosted the network’s first in-person event in Murray Bridge since COVID-19 restrictions hit in March.

Guest speaker Evelyn Pollard, from Evelyn Pollard Consulting, had an unusual message for women to help them decide whether or not they should be engaging contractors or employees: “If it quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck!”

Her unusual saying became clear as she provided comprehensive checklists for business owners to decide whether or not, under Fair Work Commission guidelines, the people they were paying to work were legally employees or whether they could be classed as contractors or sub-contractors.

She explained that just because someone may qualify under the Australian Tax Office guidelines as a contractor didn’t mean that the arrangement met Fair Work legislation guidelines.

Employers often choose to tell someone to “get an ABN” before they are engaged to do work, but Ms Pollard pointed out that this may not protect a business against claims for rights as an employee.

Often businesses opted for a sub-contractor arrangement as they feared the performance review processes required to dismiss someone, but recent court decisions had made it even more difficult for businesses to avoid their responsibilities in this regard, with many finding their sub-contractor arrangement was actually deemed to be legally an employer/employee relationship.

Businesses and individuals involved in the decision-making could then be fined and also have to backpay substantial amounts, up to six years, if found to be in breach.

Ms Pollard urged anyone either employing or contracting someone to have a legal contract in place outlining the details of the arrangement and stating the responsibilities of both parties.

The next Murray Bridge lunch will be on Wednesday, September 23.

Details of a venue and topic for discussion will be announced at a later date.

Bookings will be via eventbrite.com.au.

Photo of Jodie Austin, Jane Carnegie, Erica McAvaney, Anna Howard, Denise Walters, Demelza Thorpe and Evelyn Pollard: Women in Business Regional Network.