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Can we charge workers for their own personal protective equipment?

Q: I’m aware that it’s our responsibility under WHS laws to provide workers with personal protection equipment (PPE), such as boots, hard hats and gloves. If a worker leaves the company within 3 months of employment, can they be back-charged if it’s written into their employment contract that they pay the cost of PPE if they leave within this time?

A: No, you are not able to charge or deduct from a worker’s wages the cost of any PPE the worker is required to wear to reduce a health and safety risk. This is because providing PPE to your workers is part of your general obligations under work health and safety (WHS) legislation to provide a safe work environment and a safe system of work. It is also an offence to fail to provide PPE if it is required to minimise risk.

Any term in an employment contract stating that the worker will be back-charged for the cost of PPE has no effect under section 326 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Only reasonable deductions from workers, e.g. private expenses incurred, can be deducted.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Personal protective equipment for current advice.

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