The Hollis v. Vabu Pty Ltd1 highlighted the person who needs to be held liable in case an employee injures a third party while performing the duties of his employer. The trial judge upheld the decision that the bicycle courier was an employee of Vabu Limited and the company was responsible for his actions.
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The bicycle courier had been negligent in his duties, a trait which was shared by other bicycle couriers who worked for the company. The judge observed that Vabu Limited had not taken enough precautions to make its employees observe crucial safety standards whenever they performed their duties.
The court ruled that the courier was an employee even though Vabu Limited had made a claim that he was not the firm’s employee. The court ruled that the firm was liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff because of the relationship it had with the courier.
The case of Australian Air Express v Langford2 highlighted the issue of whether a respondent was an independent contractor or an employee. The case highlighted the relationship between an independent contractor and a firm contracting for service. The plaintiff in the case had a delivery enterprise with networks in the whole of Australia.
The respondent was a driver who delivered various goods on behalf of the plaintiff. He could hire a different driver to do the work for him under the terms of agreement between him and the plaintiff. The respondent got an injury as a result of the negligent actions of a fork lift driver working for the company.
The District Court observed that the respondent was an independent contractor working for the company. It also ruled that he was injured as a result of the negligent actions of the firm’s employee. The District Court found the appellant liable for injuries suffered by the respondent.
The two cases show the relationships between independent contractors and their employers regarding the issue of liability for negligence. The two cases demonstrated that companies are responsible for their independent contractors and are liable for any negligent actions done by them.
The Hollis v. Vabu Pty Ltd 3 case shows that an independent contractor who dons the uniform of his employer while performing work duties is considered to be an employee. Any negligent action done by him on duty involves his employer as well.
In this case, the bicycle courier had not been made aware of safety standards, he was required to observe, as he performed his duties. These cases reveal the level of liability which is conferred to companies and people who work for them based on the level of responsibility bestowed on a worker.
The Australian Air Express v Langford 4 showed that an independent contractor needs to be protected from any harm in the environment where he performs his duties. The ruling for this case has a lot of implications because it assigns liability to the employer for negligent acts that result in an independent contractor getting harmed.
The above case showed that Lanford had a close working relationship with the company and this exposed him to different types of risks within the work environment. The contract for service relationship between him and the company gave him some form of independence in the way he discharged his duties.
The contractor had ceded some level of control to the company which showed that they had a strong mutual professional relationship. The contractor was given instructions on how to perform his duties every morning which showed that he had a specific work schedule.
The two cases showed that the relationship that exists between a contractor and the contracting firm is determined by the nature of duties the contractor is supposed to perform. The intention in the agreement between the two parties does not hold as proof of whether a person should be considered as a contractor or an employee.
The two cases show that a firm has to meet the legal obligations that influence the relationship it has with its contractors.5
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This means that a firm has to take responsibility for negligence claims, which are caused by one of its contractors; if it is established that the negligent action took place while the contractor was performing responsibilities assigned to him. The working terms which are explicitly captured by the working agreement may not be enough to absolve employers of their responsibilities to their workers.
These two cases showed the changing nature of employment relationships in different workplace environments. This is influenced by the belief that an employer needs to give a person working for him fair employment terms to ensure that he is able to discharge his duties effectively. These cases have shown why employers need to put in place measures that help reduce accidents from happening at the workplace.6
This will help them reduce risks associated with different work procedures which are performed by both their employees and independent contractors. Therefore, they need to have effective supervisory functions to enable them limit the impact of negligent actions done by their employees and contractors.
The two cases show that employers expose their employees and other people to a certain amount of risk arising from their activities. This shows that they will be held responsible for any risk that may arise at the work place.
If an employer exercises a large degree of control over an independent contractor, then their relationship will be taken as one that exists between an employee and an employer. In these two cases, the employers controlled activities which were performed by these employees which showed that they performed duties which normal employees were expected to perform.7
In essence, an employer who determines the time a contractor should report to work an the number of hours that contractor has to work will be liable to meet basic requirements of employment.
All these considerations help to uncover the type of relationship that exists between a worker and an employer. If a dispute arises between the two parties, then this relationship will be assessed to find out how it affects the two parties involved.
The two cases also impact on the way workers who are employed to perform temporary duties are treated by the law. The Victorian WorkCover v Game 8 case upheld that Game’s decision to dig trenches on behalf of another employee showed that he was still employed by the firm.
The court ruled that even though Game was an independent contractor, the level of control which his employer had over him showed that he was an employee. Therefore, the employer needed to fulfill obligations which were stipulated under the law to his employee.
If an employer directs an employee closely over what he needs to do and how he needs to do it, it shows that the two parties have some level of understanding. This is construed that the contractor follows a definite schedule which has been put in place by the employer.
The two cases show that the totality of the work agreement impacts a lot on the relationship an independent contractor has with an employer. They way a worker performs duties assigned to him and the benefits that he is entitled to form the basis of an agreement between an employee and an employer.
Deductions made on an employee’s salary, membership in a trade union, annual leave and other compensation agreements are indicators of the relationship between a worker and an employer.9 All these issues make a person to be associated with a particular organization which is accountable for any harmful action that is experienced by him and other parties close to him in the course of performing his duties.
If an employer requires a contractor to wear attire that identifies him with that company, then he will be considered an employee of that company.
These landmark rulings have a major impact on labour relations in Australia. They show that employers have to take precautions in their dealings with contractors. Employers cannot use complex contract agreements to evade their responsibilities to their employees.
They need to be more aware of consequences which they expose their workers to, whenever they assign them duties to perform. The two cases show that the totality of the relationship between a worker and a firm shows if the worker is an employee or not.
Australian Air Express v Langford (2005), NSWCA 96.
Giliker, P 2010, Vicarious liability in tort, Cambridge Universtiy Press, Cambridge.
Hollis v. Vabu Pty Ltd (1999), 207 CLR 21.
Murray J 2003, Work, family and the law, The Federation Press, Sydney.
Riley, J 2005, Employee protection at law, The Federation Press, Sydney.
Stewart, A 2011, Stewart’s guide to employment law, The Federation Press, Sydney.
1 (1999) 207 CLR 21.
2 (2005) NSWCA 96.
3 Ibid., 21.
4 Ibid., 96.
5 Jill Murray, Work, Family and The Law( 2003), p. 67.
6 Joellen Riley, Employee Protection at Law (2005),p. 110.
7 Ibid., p. 115.
8 Andrew Stewart, Stewart’s Guide To Employment Law (3rd. ed, 2011), p. 89.
9 Paula Giliker, Vicarious Liability in Tort (2010), p. 77.