The Australian Government have announced they’ll be introducing new laws to better protect migrant workers from exploitation.
Under the new legislation, which will be introduced in the coming weeks, it will now be a criminal offence for businesses to force employees into violating their visa conditions. Additionally, individuals will no longer be charged for breaching their working restrictions, as it’s believed this prevented people from reporting cases of mistreatment.
This development comes after a report by the Grattan Institute found that up to one in six visa holders were paid less than the legal minimum wage. This legislation will empower overseas workers to challenge and report exploitation without risking their visa status.
What are the new penalties?
To enforce these laws, the government has introduced harsher penalties for businesses that mistreat overseas workers.
Offenders are now liable to pay fines that are triple the previous amounts and may even face up to two years in jail for violating the rights of non-citizen employees.
The laws also introduce prohibition notices, which will prevent businesses charged with exploitation from hiring people on working visas.
The government is looking at further amendments to better support overseas workers, including trialling a ‘whistle-blower’ visa, allowing extra time for them to find sponsors and improving the assurance protocol to protect those who report mistreatment.
What are my rights as an international student?
As a student visa holder in Australia, it’s important to be aware of your employment rights.
Thanks to a recent increase, international students can now work up to 48 hours per fortnight, providing you maintain your course enrolment and attendance during your studies.
As an overseas employee, you’re entitled to the same workplace rights as every Australian. This means you can expect to be treated fairly and not discriminated against or bullied due to your age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, family status or cultural background.
Additionally, you must be paid in line with the legal minimum wage, which can change depending on the industry you’re in and the award you’re under.
Finally, your employment must meet the National Employment Standards (NES). The NES outline your entitlements for leave, which can vary depending on whether you’re a permanent or casual employee.
Remember, your employer is also responsible for making sure your work meets your visa conditions.
Where can I seek help if I think I’m being exploited?
The Fair Work Ombudsman is the best place to go if you have questions about your rights. They can provide you with information to understand your protections and entitlements and can help you take the next steps if you’re being treated unfairly.