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  • Common myths about being a contractor

    Don't get caught out by myths, consider all the terms and conditions of your work arrangements. These help you decide if you're a contractor or employee.

    The following are common myths about being a contractor:

    You must have an ABN to work

    Just because a job advertisement says you must have an ABN doesn’t mean that you will automatically be a contractor. Even if you have an ABN, you may not be a contractor for every job you do. You may not be a contractor at all.

    Some businesses advertise jobs as 'must have ABN' as a way of lowering their costs.

    The work is only for a day or two

    The length of a job or how often you work does not determine if you're a contractor or an employee. Depending on the tasks and the working arrangements, short-term work can be employment.

    Both contractors and employees can:

    • be casual or temporary
    • be on call
    • do infrequent work
    • work busy periods
    • do short jobs, specific tasks and projects.

    These arrangements alone do not determine whether you're a contractor or an employee.

    You want to be a contractor

    Just because you want to be a contractor doesn’t mean the business you are working for can engage you as a contractor. It's not just about what you want – it's the working arrangement you agree to that makes the difference.

    If your working conditions meet all the criteria of being an employee, but the business treats you as a contractor, they can face penalties and charges. These charges apply for not meeting their employer tax and super obligations.

    The business decides you're a contractor

    Many employers don't understand the differences between being a contractor or an employee. As such the employer can get the working arrangement wrong.

    It is the terms and conditions in your working arrangement that determine if you are an employee or contractor. That is, what you agree to and how it will be done. A business can't just decide to treat you as a contractor.

    Everyone else in the industry has to have an ABN

    Just because everyone in an industry treats their workers as contractors doesn't mean that you'll be a contractor. If you're an employee for tax and super purposes, your boss cannot choose to treat you as a contractor.

    You have a contract

    If your working conditions meet all the criteria of being an employee, you are legally an employee.

    If you enter into a contract with the business you work for specifying you're a contractor, this makes no difference to the true working relationship. The contract will not:

    • override the real employment relationship or change you into a contractor
    • change the tax and super obligations the business must meet on your behalf.

    If the business you work for should be treating you as an employee, you don't have to wait until the arrangement ends to make the change. You can talk to the business, seek legal advice or get help from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

    See also:

    Last modified: 25 May 2021QC 43439