Protections at work

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, 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 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

Find out more about protections for contractors.

Unfair contracts

The Independent Contractors Act 2006 allows independent contractors to ask a court to review a contract on the grounds that it is 'unfair' or 'harsh'. The court may consider:

  • the terms of the contract when it was made
  • the relative bargaining strengths of the contract parties and, if applicable, anyone acting on their behalf
  • whether there was any undue influence or pressure, or any unfair tactics used against, a party to the contract
  • whether the contract provides remuneration that is less than that of an employee doing similar work
  • any other matters the court thinks is relevant

The court may order:

  • the terms of the contract to be changed (for example, they may be added or removed)
  • the whole contract, or part of the contract be 'set aside' (that is, have no effect)

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Sham contracting

If you have been engaged as a contractor but believe you’re an employee, you may be in a sham contracting arrangement.

A sham contracting arrangement is when an employer attempts to disguise an employment relationship as a contractor relationship. They may do this to avoid certain taxes and their responsibility for employee entitlements like:

  • minimum wages
  • superannuation
  • leave

It’s illegal for an employer to:

  • misrepresent an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement
  • dismiss or threaten to dismiss an employee for the purpose of engaging them as a contractor
  • say something false to persuade an employee to become a contractor

Help for sham contracting arrangements

If you think you may be in a sham contracting arrangement, you can ask for help from the:

Work health and safety

All workers in Australia are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace. This means that employers — including self-employed contractors — must comply with the relevant state or territory's workplace health and safety laws.

For more information on work health and safety, visit our health and safety page or Safe Work Australia.