Should reps be paid to be reps?

Is it appropriate for employers to pay workers/staff in their role as OHS reps?
Isn't being an elected rep more or less the same as holding the position of First Aid Officer?

No, it is not appropriate for employers to pay staff members or workers to be OHS reps.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • A person is elected as a representative by the DWG - this is not dependent on the person's qualifications, abilities, etc - but on whether the DWG believes the person will be a good representative.
  • The role of the rep is a voluntary one, and it is to represent the members of their DWGs and to raise OHS issues of concern with the employer on the DWG's behalf.
  • The rep is not and should not be considered an 'expert' in OHS
  • The Act is clear that OHS reps have no legal duties as reps. If reps were to be PAID, then the employer would expect (with some justification, perhaps) that reps undertake certain tasks as part of their 'duties' - for example write policies, write up workplace inspections, report to the employer and so on.
  • Under the Act, an elected representative has rights and powers.

However, employers must provide elected reps with sufficient paid time when exercising their powers or performing any of the functions the OHS Act gives them. This may mean either allowing reps to undertake these things during normal work time, or providing paid overtime or time in lieu if a rep attends meetings, undertakes workplace inspections, etc outside their standard hours. For example, if a committee meeting takes place out of a rep's normal working hours, then that rep needs to be paid for the extra time. Also, it may be that because of work commitments, a rep undertakes a workplace inspection before or after work - this time too needs to be paid.

The 'guiding principle' is for the elected rep not to disadvantaged in any way for taking on this role.

An OHS rep is not the same as a First Aider. If someone takes on the role of First Aider, the person must have the appropriate training and qualifications, and the employer is right in expecting that the person undertakes the requirements of that role. It is for this reason that many awards or EBAs have a paid allowance for this position. It would be considered to be part of a person's job and responsibilities.

Remember, the position of an elected OHS rep is not a 'job', nor part of an employee's job or employment.

Last amended October 2014