Engaging outworkers

Employers who engage outworkers have to be aware of their workplace responsibilities and obligations.

Understanding outworkers entitlements

In the textile, clothing and footwear industry, businesses can engage outworkers directly or enter an arrangement with outworkers to perform work outside of their business. Businesses have specific responsibilities and have to ensure their outworkers receive certain conditions.

Outworkers are people who work at home or at a place that isn’t a typical business premises, for example, a garage attached to a person’s house. Their work typically involves:

  • making clothing, bags or footwear
  • cutting, sewing, or finishing work such as embroidery or sewing tags onto apparel
  • manufacturing buttons and textiles.

Textile, clothing and footwear outworkers engaged as contractors are considered to be employees for the purpose of most protections under the Fair Work Act.

Most outworkers working in the textile, clothing and footwear industry are covered by the Textile and Clothing Award, whether they are employees or contractors.

The Textile and Clothing Award is a legal document that provides for wages and other conditions for outworkers, including:

  • information outworkers must be given
  • minimum pay and conditions
  • work records
  • written agreements.

A full list of what outworkers are entitled to can be found on our Outworkers page.

The Textile and Clothing Award still applies when there’s a registered agreement in place that covers the outworker.

Outworker rules and obligations under the Fair Work Act and the Textile and Clothing Award needs to be considered together with any state or territory laws that apply.

If a business engages outworkers in a different industry, they’re entitled to the same pay and conditions as other employees under the relevant award. You can find awards and pay rates by using our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Engaging outworkers in a business

When engaging outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry, businesses have to:

  • register with the Board of Reference
  • provide them with required information
  • provide them with at least the minimum conditions
  • keep written work records
  • provide them with a written agreement.

Board of Reference

Businesses have to be registered with the Board of Reference before engaging outworkers. Once registered, a registration number will be given to the business. This number has to be included on work records and in written agreements with outworkers.

Information for outworkers

Outworkers engaged in the textile, clothing and footwear industry have to be given a copy of Schedule F of the Textile and Clothing Award in a language that they understand.

Schedule F includes an information sheet that sets out some of the minimum entitlements for outworkers, including:

  • pay rates
  • hours of work
  • leave and public holidays.

Minimum conditions

Schedule F of the Textile and Clothing Award provides that an employer or principal has to ensure that outworkers:

  • are engaged on a full-time or regular part-time basis
  • receive at least the minimum award pay rate for the appropriate classification, even if they are a pieceworker
  • get overtime, allowances and penalties
  • get the minimum entitlements in the National Employment Standards.

Part-time employees are entitled to work at least 15 hours per week. This can be reduced to 10 hours per week with the agreement of the relevant union in the employee’s state or territory.

Work records

Businesses need to make and keep a written record of what the business and outworker have agreed about the work being done.

This record has to contain relevant details about the business, the outworker and the type of work required. Find out more about work records on the Outworkers page.

A copy of this work record has to be given to the outworker before any of the work described in it starts.

Find out more about record-keeping obligations.

Written agreements

When a business enters a new arrangement with an outworker to carry out work, they have to complete a signed written agreement with the outworker. The agreement must set out if the work will be provided on a full-time or part-time basis.

If the work will be provided on a part-time basis, the agreement will also need to include:

  • the agreed number of hours of work per week
  • if the hours will be averaged, the period over which the hours will be averaged, which can’t be more than four consecutive weeks.

The agreement has to also provide for wages and conditions no less than those contained in Schedule F of the Textile and Clothing Award.

The agreement has to be clear and simple and in a language the worker understands.

Businesses have to:

  • give the outworker enough time to read and understand the agreement before it’s signed
  • keep a copy of the agreement and any changes made to it.

The copies kept by the business must be in English.

Supply chain management

Businesses may have contracts with multiple suppliers who make the goods they sell. If these suppliers engage outworkers and do not pay them correctly, the business may be held responsible for the unpaid wages.

Tools and resources

Related information

Have a workplace problem?

Problems can happen in any workplace. If you have a workplace problem, we have tools and information to help you resolve it.

Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

  • working out if there is a problem
  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.

Help for small business