Human Resource Manager? You can be held PERSONALLY LIABLE! Read on…

Fair Work Australia are setting their sights on cracking down on non-compliance with federal work place laws as it appears to have become a ‘cultural norm’.

Recently the Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, gave a speech to Human Resource Managers, informing them that it has come to the attention of Fair Work Australia that “in some parts of our labour market non-compliance with workplace laws has become a cultural norm. The common characteristics are:


-price driven procurement,

-a proliferation of entities in the supply chain or network,

-tight profit margins, and

-vulnerable, often migrant workers.

Fair Work is putting employers and Human Resource Managers on notice that “it doesn’t matter whether workers, are engaged via franchising, out sourcing, or labour-hire arrangements. The community expects business to take responsibility for its labour, regardless of where strict legal liability begins and ends.”

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“Act”) section 550 provides that a person, such as an HR Manager can still be found to have been involved in a contravention of the Act, regardless of whether they were aware that their actions would constitute a contravention, and action can be taken against them personally.

In some cases which have involved action taken against employers for breach of the Act, it has been decided that HR Managers employed in those businesses, should have been aware of the employers obligations under the Act, and should have attempted to advise their employer accordingly.

To date the ramifications of HR managers in breach of section 550 of the Act have not required the payment of compensation, but have required the payment of penalties for breaching the Act. This is not to say however, that it is not a possibility.

It appears that Natalie James wants to make it clear to HR Managers that; “Those involved in decision making around the strategy for, and compliance with work place laws are on notice.”!

If you are a Human Resources manager, you can find yourselves personally liable for the actions, or inactions, you help your company take.”

Alison Brown


Koffels Solicitors & Barristers,

Sydney, Australia