What is a Worker?

With the new Health and Safety legislation one of the noticeable changes is the word 'employee' is changing! The word employee is being replaced by the broader term: worker.

Watch as Penny Swarbrick gives us the down-low on the name change, who a worker includes, and what this means for your organisation.


Hey, I'm here with Penny Swarbrick from Swarbrick, Beck, Mackinnon talking about what is a worker? We've got this new legislation and finding out, well, the new reforms, finding out what is a worker going to be under that new legislation. Penny, that just an employee. And this is just a new word.

No. Worker is the old word, pre-employee for someone who was an employee. So anyone who was around in those days has to relearn the definition because under this health and safety legislation, a worker is far wider than an employee.

It's anybody who does any work in any capacity for a PCBU.
So there's really there are already obligations by employers towards anybody who was in the workplace. This just makes it explicitly clear.

And the other thing about workers, of course, is that when you get to the employee participation provisions that they are extended to all workers in the workplace not just those who are paid employees. So that's the big change. But an employee is just one category of worker under the new legislation. So you're going to be a worker for a PCBU. If you're an employee, if you are a contractor who comes in, so you might be the electrician contracted into do some work in the building, you're going to be a worker for the purposes of the act.

If the contractor's got any the employees, they will be workers of the PCBU for the purposes of the act. If you're bringing in people from a labor hire company who aren't your employees, they're still working for the PCBU.

Because people sometimes try and just get around that, don't they? Because, well, they're not ours. They're temps from the labor hire.

Well, you've still got obligations to them because they're still your workers because they're
doing work for you. If they're an apprentice, just because they've got a different kind of contractual arrangement from employees, they're still a worker.
If they're a work experience person who has come into the workplace, and then you're not being, they're not being paid. They're still going to be a worker.
If you use volunteers for anything as part of your business, they are also workers for the
purpose of the act. And the same obligations you have to your employees, you have to
all of those other people who are workers in your business.

Well, what about, just thinking about those volunteers and workers. What if they're not just
working on my physical site? What if we have volunteers or people that go do something somewhere else but for us?

So if you're a charity, for example, that has collectors on the street, the charity will be a PCBU
because it's a business. It's an undertaking. It employs people.

The volunteers are workers in that charity even though they're not being paid. And you're responsible for them as if they were employees.  And in fact, the streets where they are collecting or the house-to-house collecting they're doing, that is actually going to be their place of work for the purpose of the act. So you need to take reasonably practicable steps to keep them safe while they're doing that.

So what are your risks going to be? Risk of being robbed. Risk of traffic. Risk of exposure to adverse weather conditions. That kind of thing.
You just need to be alert to those things and make sure you're taking sensible precautions to keep them safe.

That sounds all pretty reasonable.
I guess, the takeaway for that for me is a worker is no longer just my employee which I might have kind of thought previously. But now it is much wider.
I need to really think about the interactions that I have with other people in my business.

That's right.

OK, cool. Thanks Penny.



Workshop WednesdayZane Yates