According to a recent press release, during October 2019 the Australian Border Force (ABF) has visited 111 workplaces across Australia that sponsor temporary skilled workers as part of its activity to ensure compliance of employer sponsors.
During this campaign, a mechanical workshop north of Melbourne has been fined $18,900 for underpaying temporary foreign workers following the enforcement activity by the ABF, and had it’s sponsorship approval cancelled. The employer is also banned from making future applications for sponsorship approval for a two year period.
A number of other businesses were sanctioned during the activity, aimed at ensuring employers comply with their sponsorship obligations.
Australian businesses are able to sponsor suitably skilled temporary migrant workers to fill a position if they can demonstrate that they cannot not find an appropriately skilled Australian worker. Importantly, workers on temporary visas are entitled to the same basic rights and protections as Australian citizens and permanent residents under applicable laws.
The ABF is the investigation and enforcement arm of the Department of Home Affairs, responsible for ensuring that employers are compliant with their obligations.
“The Australian Border Force undertakes proactive, targeted sponsor compliance activities to ensure certain sponsors are not breaching their obligations,” ABF Investigations Acting Commander Penny Spies said.
“In the case of a mechanical workshop north of Melbourne, the sponsor was penalised for being unable to provide evidence that three sponsored temporary skilled visa holders received their full entitlements.”
Examples of penalties imposed
In the case of the mechanical workshop, the ABF cancelled the employer’s sponsorship agreement and barred the employer from making further applications for approval as a sponsor for two years. This means that the employer can no longer look to international workers to fill skills shortages in the business, nor can it renew the employer sponsored work visas of the workers in its employ.
In other breaches, a Darwin based restaurant was fined almost $19,000 for offences including underpaying three sponsored temporary skilled visa holders. A cleaning company with a head office in Sydney’s south was fined $12,600 for the same offence, after underpaying one worker. A Thai massage parlour on the NSW south coast and a prestige car retailer in Brisbane were both fined $6,300 for other breaches.
Non-compliance employers shall have their name published on a publicly available register of sponsors who breach their sponsorship obligations. Updates to the publicly available register occur periodically.
Additional penalties for breaching sponsorship obligations include cancellation of the employer’s approval as a sponsor, being barred from sponsoring other workers, being barred from making future applications for approval as a sponsor and being issued with infringement notices.
Public disclosure aims to deter other sponsors from breaching their obligations and protects foreign workers from exploitation by enabling them to inform themselves about working for a potential sponsor.
Sponsorship obligations refresher
The table below lists the sponsorship obligations that sponsors are required to comply with under Australia’s Migration Regulations 1994. The table sets out the regulation number in the first column and, in the second column, the corresponding obligation.
|2.78||to cooperate with inspectors|
|2.79||to ensure equivalent terms and conditions of employment|
|2.80||to pay travel costs to enable sponsored persons to leave Australia|
|2.80A||to pay travel costs of domestic workers (executive)|
|2.81||to pay costs incurred by the Commonwealth to locate and remove unlawful non-citizen|
|2.82||to keep records|
|2.83||to provide records and information to the Minister|
|2.84||to provide information to Immigration when certain events occur|
|2.85||to secure an offer of a reasonable standard of accommodation|
|2.86||to ensure primary sponsored person works or participates in nominated occupation, program or activity|
|2.86A||to ensure primary sponsored person works or participates in activity in relation to which the visa was granted|
|2.87||not to recover, transfer or take actions that would result in another person paying for certain costs|
|2.87C||to not engage in discriminatory recruitment practices|
How we can help
The Migration Agency can assist employers with designing and implementing compliance programs including internal audits, policies and procedures to manage sponsor compliance in the workplace.
If you do find yourself the target of an ABF investigation, we can assist you with managing the investigation and responding to any formal notices of intention to take action against the business for compliance issues.
Please contact us for further information or assistance on (02) 8896 6056 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.