Business calls on Parliament to get workplace manslaughter laws right

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

A statement from Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Mark Stone AM:

The Victorian Government has today introduced new a workplace manslaughter law to Parliament. If passed as drafted, this law risks failing to create safer workplaces while imposing fines of around $16 million and up to 20 years jail for employers responsible for negligently causing death.

With such significant penalties it is vital that the Government gets this law right.

The new law must have safety as its number one objective and be workable, proportionate, fair, support continuing collaboration on safety and avoid unintended outcomes.

Victorian employers and employees have a shared responsibility for safety by working together. This collaborative approach is working.

We have worked closely with the Government to inform the development of this bill. However, we are not confident that the full range of potential consequences of this legislation has been fully considered.

Jointly, employer groups have proposed a number of sound and workable improvements to the drafting of the legislation that would have enhanced its safety objectives. We consider that without some changes the legislation may result in unintended consequence and have detrimental effects on safety, investment and jobs.

Once introduced, a workplace manslaughter offence should apply to anyone who has engaged in criminally negligent conduct resulting in death, not just organisations and senior officers.

Including employees can only improve safety outcomes.

We consider that the laws will disproportionately impact small business. Put simply, the operators of smaller enterprises are more likely to have a ‘hands on’ role in the business. Overseas experience has shown that they will likely bear the brunt of these laws.

We need laws that that are equitable and that do not just target small business.

We also need more education and support for business to help them focus on prevention and provide the safest possible workplaces, and for WorkSafe to ensure its officials are prepared to manage the complexities of a manslaughter case (currently, manslaughter investigations are conducted by highly trained Victoria Police Officers).

Employers look forward to working with the Government, opposition and cross bench to ensure that these laws are fair and equitable and that they deliver improved workplace safety outcomes.

/Public Release.