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Contracting during COVID-19? Know your rights!

Contracting during COVID-19? Know your rights!
Submitted by global_admin on

As the employment market remains challenging during these uncertain times, we have started to hear of contractors facing the brunt of this with contracts terminated, offers withdrawn, agencies going into administration. As such, we wanted to provide you with a guide to your rights, and how a recruitment agency should be working with you*.

If you are contracting through an agency, it’s likely you’ll be operating as an “on-hire employee”. 

Your employment falls under the national workplace relations system and is covered by the Fair Work Act 2009.

However, public sector and local government employees are not covered by the national system and remain under the state system. Your rights vary slightly under the different systems so it is worth checking what you fall under and the relevant rights by following the links above.

Contracting: Notice Periods

Contractors are often finished up quickly when tough market conditions present themselves. Check your contract to understand the length of notice you are on. It should be equal for you and your employer and clearly stated in your contract. Legally they must pay you that amount of time whether they want you to continue working or not. 

Contract offer withdrawn

If you have an offer of a contract and this is withdrawn then it’s likely you could be left without a job or payment. You may be able to seek the notice period of your contract, however, this could be challenging to get since you hadn’t started the contract. Ask your recruitment agency and the company you were due to start with for the notice period amount, this at least gives you some payment whilst searching for another role. Your agency should then prioritise you to find a new role. 

Company into administration

In the unfortunate scenario that the company you work for goes into voluntary administration ASIC has guidelines for employee rights, however, it does distinguish between employees and contractors so it’s likely you would need to refer to your contractual agreement with your agency, and potentially seek further advice to understand what your options are. 

Recruitment Agency into administration

If it’s your agency that has gone into administration then you could potentially swap your contract to another agency and continue working. This would depend on what happens with the administrator appointed and your contract. 

However, in some circumstances it can be fairly easy to move, for example, if you are contracting for local government in NSW you have the option to move agency if you are unhappy with your current agency. You can do this via the MSP, managed service provider that the agency worked with to get you your role. 

If you are considering moving agency or have any questions around this, we’ll be happy to help.

Industry body RCSA 

A large number of recruitment agencies belong to the industry body RCSA which sets out a charter of standards that members must adhere to in order to hold membership. If you feel your agency hasn’t upheld these standards you can lodge a complaint to RCSA which will be investigated and responded to. 

*The information in this article is published as a guide only, not taking into account your specific circumstances. We recommend that you seek professional assistance to understand your legal rights and obligations. 

For more information, visit:

RCSA - The Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association 

RCSA - lodge a complaint 

ASIC: Guide for employees 

Fairwork - on hire contractors workplace obligations

Fairwork - protections at work