Subcontractors and small businesses in general are particularly vulnerable to risks connected with late or non-payment, insolvencies and unfair behaviour.
Legislation came into effect in April 2020 giving additional authority to our Small Business Commissioner to investigate complaints of non-payment and poor industry practice. He can also investigate matters identified through data analysis and insights from other government agencies.
Findings from investigations may be provided to ministers, local government, State Government and specified Commonwealth Government authorities. This could result in sanctions being imposed. The work of the Small Business Commissioner is supported by our Investigations and Inquiry Unit.
If you’re a subcontractor in the construction industry who is experiencing problems, we can provide practical advice and guidance. We are proactive in our approach and actively encourage subcontractors with any concerns relating to the industry to contact us for a confidential discussion.
We encourage you to contact us with concerns about late payments, coercive behaviour and breaches of contract terms with another business (of any size) or WA and local government organisation.
Our advisors have helped thousands of small businesses since 1984 and have a great deal of experience in handling sensitive matters and, if appropriate, may refer you to our Investigations and Inquiry Unit.
For serious issues requiring further investigation, our Commissioner has the authority to compel parties to provide information or documents (with financial penalties for non-compliance) and to protect a complainant’s identity and their confidentiality (unless required by law).
Issues we can help with
Behaviours we investigate generally relate to systemic issues (see below) and may be referred to an agency that has legislative responsibility.
The following are examples of some of the issues we can deal with. If you’re unsure whether we can assist please contact us. If we’re unable to help, we’ll refer you to someone who can.
We can help with
- Delays in receiving payment (while we may help with delays in receiving payments, we cannot collect outstanding debts on your behalf and/or ensure that you get paid)
- Delays in the release of retentions
- Managing the impact of a creditor becoming insolvent and protecting your assets
- Being treated in a way that would be considered harsh, unconscionable, oppressive, misleading or deceptive
- Dealing with a registered building service provider* you believe is acting fraudulently
- Contract terms that would be considered ‘unfair’
- Dealing with a registered building service provider* you believe acted in a collusive way during a tender process
- Issues arising as a result of a registered building service provider* experiencing financial difficulties
- Issues relating to contracts associated with State Government or commercial works
Issues we may refer to other government agencies
- A registered building service provider engaging in sham contracting (when an employer disguises employment as independent contracting)
- Illegal phoenixing activities
- The sudden departure of directors from a registered building service provider
- Freedom of Association issues
- Health and safety issues
- Issues relating to unregistered written agreements and other agreements
- Issues relating to employing non-Australian citizens or residents
- Workplace arrangement issues
- Above entitlement payments and related matters
- Industrial action
- Dispute settlement procedures in industrial instruments
- Workplace reform
- Workplace relations management plans
*A registered building service provider could be a head contractor or other contracting body.
Free information and downloads
Before contacting us, take a look at our range of free resources which may help.
- Tips on providing credit to customers, including the importance of including terms and conditions, and what to do if you become an unsecured creditor.
- Resolving business disputes, including a free letter of demand template to help you recover debts and avoid legal fees.
- Information on contracts and agreements which explains the general terms and structure of an agreement, plus unfair contract terms to look out for.
- How to protect business assets using the Personal Property and Securities Register (PPSR).
- Our free business advisory service providing guidance on a wide range of topics to support your business.
- Our dispute resolution service to help you get paid what you’re owed.
Other organisations providing support
- Building and Energy (formerly known as the Building Commission) provides services for the regulation and licensing of the building industry, as well as the rapid adjudication process for disputes:
- under the Construction Contracts Act 2004 (contracts entered into prior to 1 August 2022).
- under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2021 (contracts entered into from 1 August 2022 onwards).
- The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has a range of tips and guidance specifically for people working in the construction industry.
- The Fair Work Ombudsman is responsible for provide education, assistance, advice and guidance to employers, employees, outworkers, outworker entities and organisations; to promote and monitor compliance with workplace laws and to inquire into and investigate breaches of the Fair Work Act.
- If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety, stress or depression, you can receive advice and support from:
- MATES in Construction - 1300 642 111
- Lifeline - 13 11 14
- Rural & Remote Mental Health
We are here to help, but please read this important information before contacting us
- Before we can advise how we can help you, we will usually need to make enquiries and request documents to establish the validity of any complaint.
- When providing supporting documents or other information we won’t ask for (nor can we use) information that is privileged (ie. can only be shared between specific parties) or confidential. It is your responsibility, not ours, to determine what would be considered as such (seek legal advice on this if needed).
- Don’t provide us with this information unless you can (or already have) waived the privilege or confidentiality, and can confirm this.
- We will not pursue complaints that are without merit, substance or not made in good faith.
- We are not able to provide legal advice. If necessary, you may wish to seek independent legal guidance.
- We are unable to assist with matters that are currently in negotiation through lawyers, awaiting an adjudication or court determination.
For help please don’t hesitate to contact us.
So that we can help as much as possible, we'll need some information from you. If possible, make sure you have the following details to hand or can answer some basic questions about your issue.
- A copy of your contract or purchase order
- A copy of any outstanding invoices or progress claims
- Any correspondence or supporting evidence, these are usually documents such as:
- letters of demand
- emails or letters
- notice of dispute
- Any relevant court or adjudication decisions
- Details of any other steps you are taking, such as referring the matter to court
- Consider whether you wish details about your identity to remain confidential; this may limit what can be done to assist you
- The value of the amount outstanding, and details of what action you have taken so far to be paid
If you want to contact us without initially identifying yourself:
T: 1300 110 232
E: complete the contact form