According to a recent report, Fair Work inspectors are now checking the immigration status of employees. An amendment to the Migration Act passed in 2013, makes it an offence for Australian employers to employ a person who does not have work rights in Australia. It is very important that employers carry out the necessary checks to find out whether employees have the right to work in Australia.
The amendment also granted additional powers to Fair Work inspectors to check that employers are not employing people without the right to work in Australia. Reports suggest that immigration checks are now common during Fair Work site inspections. Employing workers illegally can result in fines or even imprisonment for the employer concerned.
In order to comply with Australian immigration law, employers must have checked that all foreign workers have a valid visa or sponsorship. Some of the common visa types are the temporary Subclass 457 work visa, regional sponsored visa and the General Skilled Migration visa (SkillSelect). There are also a number of other visas which enable foreign workers to work in Australia.
All Australian employers must take steps to ensure their employees have the right to work in Australia, to include:
- Where relevant keeping employee records which show they are a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, or that they have permanent residence.
- Maintaining records of all temporary visa holders
- Checking temporary visas against the Visa Entitlement Verification system every three months to ensure they are still valid.
Businesses that have Sponsorship Agreements to employ temporary migrant workers on 457 work visas need to meet additional requirements, in addition to keeping employee records. These include:
- Ensuring workers receive market salary rates
- Travel expenses are covered
- Sufficient training is given to both Australian and foreign workers.
Employers who do not take these steps to verify an employee's right to work are breaking the law, and could be fined or imprisoned for up to 5 years.
Fair Work inspectors will also be checking to ensure that 457-visa holders are not being exploited, and are being paid market rates. Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor explained 'My concern has been all along that we do not want to see 457 applicants exploited.'
Inspectors currently visit around 10,000 workplaces a year, and their role is increasingly moving towards visa compliance checks. Workplace relations minister Bill Shorten said that these additional powers for Fair Work inspectors will fill 'a gap in the system.'