Terms of reference

Policies, Publications & Submissions - May 20, 2012


For the purpose of this inquiry, insecure work is defined as that which provides workers with little social and economic security, and little control over their working lives. Indicators of insecure work are:

(i) unpredictable, fluctuating pay;

(ii) inferior rights and entitlements, including limited or no access to paid leave;

(iii) irregular and unpredictable working hours, or working hours that, although regular, are too long or too few and/or non-social or fragmented;

(iv) lack of security and/or uncertainty over the length of the job; and

(v) lack of voice at work on wages, conditions and work organisation.

Insecure work can be experienced by all workers. Certain forms of employment are prone to insecure work, including casual work, fixed-term contracts, seasonal work, contracting and labour hire. These forms of employment will be of particular attention for the inquiry. Also of consideration will be the problems faced by workers employed part-time and workers in non-traditional workplaces, such as home-based outworkers. 

Term of reference 

The ACTU is committed to consulting widely with the Australian community and invites all interested stakeholders to make written submissions. Public hearings will be held around Australia during February and March 2012.

The ACTU has asked the panel chaired by the Hon Brian Howe, to consult and report on the issue of insecure work in Australia. The inquiry panel has been asked to consider:

  • The extent of insecure work in Australia;
  • The causes of insecure work and its prevalence in modern Australia;
  • The workers that are most at risk of insecure work and why;
  • The level of compliance with applicable labour laws and any barriers to their effective enforcement;
  • The effect of insecure work on:
  • Financial security,
  • Occupational health and safety of workers and workplaces,
  • Wellbeing and health of workers outside the workplace, including impact on family and other relationships,
  • Training and skills development,
  • Career progression and opportunities,
  • Regional communities, Social inclusion,
  • Community organisations;
  • The social and economic cost of insecure work to employees, employers, government, and the Australian community;
  • The rights and entitlements/working conditions that can best assist to provide security for workers;
  • Relevant international human rights and labour standards.

The inquiry will provide recommendations to address any negative effects that it identifies as being associated with insecure work and/or insecure work itself. Without otherwise limiting the nature of the recommendations the independent inquiry may wish to make, in formulating its recommendations it must have regard to:

  • International examples of effective measures that can be taken;
  • Protections that currently exist that could be effective if better enforced and/or which require amendment;
  • Additional measures that can be taken by;
  • Unions,
  • Employers,
  • Government.

This inquiry will produce a report by 18 April 2012 that will be considered at the ACTU Congress 15-17 May 2012.

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