Research company in court over sham contracts for workers with a disability


A health and wellness research company is set to appear before the federal court for alleged sham contracting committed against workers with a disability.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s report, Sydney-based Doll House Training Pty Ltd, which did research into robotics, coding, and artificial intelligence and their application to the health and wellness industry, employed three workers with the help of an employment services provider for people with disabilities. Some of their work involved research and preparing presentations in relation to how technology, such as robotics, interacted with the health and wellness industry.

The workers only worked from August to October 2020, when the company terminated or threatening to terminate their employment in order to engage them as independent contractors to perform substantially the same work. The FWO noted that the company’s act was in violation of the Fair Work Act 2009.

Furthermore, the company reportedly misrepresented to the workers the fact that they were, or would be, engaged as independent contractors, including by requiring them to submit invoices and provide Australian Business Numbers (ABNs), when in fact they continued to be employees. It also did not pay the workers in full at during their employment.

The company also allegedly failed to comply with a Notice to Produce issued by a Fair Work Inspector for it to provide specified records or documents, including documents relating to terms of engagement and duties performed by the workers.

“Enforcing the Fair Work Act’s prohibitions on sham contracting helps to protect the fundamental rights of employees,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said. “If businesses unlawfully misclassify workers, it can lead to them not being paid the wages and entitlements they are entitled to as employees. Employers are urged to prioritise workplace law compliance, particularly how they engage their workers.”

Doll House Training Pty Ltd faces maximum penalties of $66,600 per contravention, although it rectified payments owed to the workers last year.

A directions hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney is set to be scheduled in a yet-to-be-determined date.