The Ethical Clothing Trades Extended Responsibility Scheme came into effect on 1 July 2005. The main effect of this Code is to ensure that outworkers in the clothing trade are not exploited by suppliers and retailers and that they have access to the full range of entitlements afforded to them under the Industrial Relations Act 1996.

Outworkers are quite vulnerable in that they often work outside registered factories and as such may not benefit from the provision of entitlements that are given to workers within registered factories. The majority of outworkers are from a non-English speaking background, work long hours, are often paid at a rate much lower than the minimum wage and work in very unsafe conditions.

As a result of these working conditions the Code puts obligations on retailers and ensures that they act ethically and do not take advantage of outworkers. Other parties that are bound under this code are suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors and transferees. Excluded from this list are charitable organisations.

The responsibility of suppliers

Part 4 of the Code details the numerous responsibilities that suppliers must abide by in order to comply with the requirements of the Code. It is important that suppliers comply with this Code as they act as the middleman between outworkers and retailers. If the suppliers do not uphold their obligations under the Code then outworkers may be exploited or exposed to unsafe working conditions without any protection from the law.

The responsibilities of suppliers are listed as follows. Suppliers must:

  • Provide sufficient information to retailers to allow retailers to comply with their obligations under the Code. The information to be provided can be found in (link to my other article “I am a clothing retailer in NSW. What are my obligations under the Ethical Clothing Trades Extended Responsibility Scheme?”);
  • Inform retailers of clothing which has been manufactured in Australia;
  • Provide retailers with invoices for the supply of clothing products and a completed copy of a form under Part B of the code;
  • Provide retailers with a copy of each invoice for clothing for the last 6 years;
  • Exchange the relevant forms with contractors and keep these forms with them for 6 years;
  • Keep the retailer informed of any changes in details even if the supplier is located outside of NSW;
  • Be registered under the relevant industrial instrument in order to be allowed to engage with outworkers.

Conclusion

The Code contains important rules that protect the rights and interests of outworkers who may be vulnerable to exploitation while working in unregistered factories. Ensuring compliance with the Code will help protect these outworkers and will ensure that suppliers will not face any penalties under the Code. In following the Code suppliers can also engage in their business arrangements with a clear conscience knowing that the outworkers that they contract with are protected by the full range of entitlements afforded to them under the law.

For information on other employment matters that may be useful to you please see: https://legalvision.com.au/category/employment-matters/

Lachlan McKnight

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