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Ask Our Specialist – When Engaging Independent Contractors, What Are the Health and Safety Laws?

Published June 13, 2017 (last updated June 10, 2022) - Head of Health and Safety

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (the Act), independent contractors are afforded the same rights as an employee. Similarly, independent contractors have the same obligations as employees in the way they are to conduct themselves in the workplace.

This means that for independent contractors, they must:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety;
  • ensure their actions do not risk the health and safety of other people;
  • follow reasonable policies and procedures which have been communicated to workers in the business where they are undertaking their work; and
  • comply with any reasonable instruction given by the employer (or PCBU in terms of the legislation) where they are undertaking their work.

Given they are treated as workers under the Act, those that engage independent contractors must ensure:

  • health and safety of the contractor, enforced through policies and induction or training
  • health and safety of those impacted by the tasks the contractors are instructed to complete

As the rights and responsibilities of independent contractors are the same as employees, the same tasks should be completed as they enter the workplace. A contractor should respond to information provided and depending on the size and nature of the contract provide either:

  • A draft health and safety plan; or
  • Acknowledgement of receipt and acceptance of health and safety information, terms and conditions; or
  • Other documentation as required.

Some simple examples can include:

  • signing a declaration that they have read and agree to the workplace safety policy
  • confirming in a declaration they have raised any concerns with the employer prior to working on the site

What about liability insurance?

Those engaging independent contractors should also require from the contractor liability insurance. Damage to the workplace caused by a contractor is the responsibility of the contractor. Damage is not only the physical damage, it is also any losses suffered by the damage, for example if a conveyor belt is out of action and the financial impact of this means loss of outputs. Requiring contractors to have some form of public liability insurance is highly recommended as not all contractors have the cash flow to pay promptly for any damage caused.

Accidental Compensation Corporation

Given contractors are self-employed, payments and levies for the purposes of workers compensation are to be made directly to the Accident Compensation Corporation by the contractor. These are not paid by those that engage contractors, but are paid by the contractor themselves.

With independent contractors being treated the same as employees under the Act, the fundamentals of safety in the workplace should be replicated for any contractors being engaged. Employsure helps SMEs navigate the workplace health and safety system across New Zealand. For peace of mind please contact the Employsure Advice line on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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