Employing Foreign Workers? You Need to Be Proactive

If you currently employ, or are considering employing workers from overseas, you need to be aware of two recent legal developments: the tightening of the rules hiring foreign workers and the potential cost of underpaying workers. A recent media report suggests that there are an estimated 100,000 vacant jobs in Australian agricultural businesses. The shortage of Australian workers who are interested in agricultural work suggests that employers in the agricultural sector will continue to look to foreign labour as a means of filling the gap. While the Federal Government has tightened laws regarding the hiring of overseas labour, the Fair Work Ombudsman has stated that in the last two years it has received in excess of 200 complaints from foreign workers who claim to have been underpaid. A recent decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia demonstrates that the Ombudsman and the Courts will not take cases of proven underpayment of foreign workers lightly. Therefore, it is crucial that employers meet their workers’ minimum pay and condition requirements. Employers will also need to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to verify that a worker is not an unlawful non-citizen and not a lawful non-citizen in breach of a work-related visa condition. Individuals who fail to do so may be fined $15,300 or imprisoned for up to 2 years. A company may be fined up to $76,500 for a single offence.

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