With the current economic challenges, immigration restrictions, and skills shortage in the labour market, companies need to ensure that they have a strategic immigration program that meets the future workforce needs of the business.
Now is a good time to review your organisation’s immigration program and identify opportunities to optimise it. Your immigration program should provide predictability for all roles that you wish to sponsor, streamline application processes, and lessen the company’s exposure to possible immigration rule changes, particularly when companies are recruiting from within a very diverse workforce in Australia that includes visa holders.
Once a company’s labour agreement is established, it is fixed for a 5-year period and provides a safe harbour from any potential changes to skilled occupation lists, nomination or visa criteria, or other legislative changes. This also gives employers benefits like priority processing and permanent residency pathways – which may keep employees for the long term.
Benefits of a Company-Specific Labour Agreement
If you want to hire highly skilled workers for your business, the chances are that the people with the skills you need are not readily on your doorstep. The Australian labour market is diverse with many skilled people needing a visa to work full-time for an employer.
The standard business sponsorship program does not always cater to niche skill sets or positions that don’t fall neatly within the ANZSCO definition of a particular occupation. Given the restrictions of standard work visa programs, you could hold the key to setting up an effective immigration program to meet your needs.
Company-specific labour agreements are bespoke agreements to sponsor foreign employees on work visas, negotiated between employers and the Australian Government. They function to allow organisations to hire highly specific overseas talent specific to the needs of their business, or to address a gap in the Australian labour market in their sector or geographic location.
Once established, company-specific labour agreements can form the blueprint for a smart and efficient immigration solution to address the workforce needs of a business over a long period of time creating certainty and stability. They allow sponsorship for up to five years with the provision that obligations and compliance activities are met.
Key requirements of Company-Specific Labour Agreements
When applying for a company-specific labour agreement, businesses are required to show:
- They are an Australian business with good standing
- They have a need for certain skills, which are not available in the current Australian labour market
- They can fill the position with someone who can meet Australian standards in terms of skills, qualifications, and experience for the occupation.
- Hiring a foreign national will benefit their Australian workforce, in terms of transfer of skill or otherwise
- They have consulted with industry stakeholders, who have no objection to the company-specific labour agreement
Qualifications plus two years of relevant work experience needs to be demonstrated by the worker, or sufficient experience in lieu of qualification, plus a functional level of English language and relevant industry licensing and registrations if required to perform the position. The foreign worker must also be paid in line with Australian market salary rates, and the company must show efforts to recruit from the Australian labour market have previously been unsuccessful.
Company-specific labour agreements have strict requirements, and businesses need to provide a detailed application and supporting submissions to meet the high threshold for approval of the new agreement. For this reason, negotiations are usually undertaken by immigration specialists with a deep knowledge of immigration and contract law and Departmental decision-making policy which informs the outcome of the application.
Examples of how a company-specific labour agreement can be used
Company-specific labour agreements can be a suitable pathway to sponsor employees for temporary and permanent visas in occupations that are not on the list of eligible occupations for the subclass 482 temporary visa or subclass 186 permanent residence visa. It is also a solution for burgeoning industries with emerging technologies, like blockchain or artificial intelligence. Every case is unique, and cases are assessed with consideration for the specific goals and details of the business.
Other examples of possible uses of a company-specific labour agreement include:
- Occupation is skilled (skill level 1 – 3 in the ANZSCO occupation dictionary) but not on the list of eligible occupations for the TSS visa, e.g. a Training and Development professional with a relevant Bachelor’s Degree
- Occupation is semi-skilled (skill level 4) and the business can justify the need for the skills due to critical shortages e.g. Aged or Disability Carers with a Certificate III qualification
- Concessions to the standard visa criteria, e.g. age, skill, or English
Case Study: How a company-specific labour agreement helped our client gain a competitive advantage in their industry
TMA’s client is a global medical devices company whose sponsored staff were impacted by some changes to the list of eligible occupations for employer-sponsored visas. Some occupations have been removed entirely, and others were designated “short term” occupations and eligible for a reduced visa term of 2 years rather than 4.
TMA worked with the client to review their existing immigration program and provide more holistic and commercial advice about the options available not only to continue sponsoring their key employees but also to help the business de-risk against possible future changes to skill lists. It was also important to provide long-term visa pathways for positions in the business, as employee retention is a high priority for the business.
We negotiated a bespoke Company-Specific Labour Agreement for them to sponsor foreign employees in roles that had fallen outside of the scope of the standard sponsorship program. Examples included medical sales representatives and product trainers that were no longer eligible for the TSS visa. We also advocated for the genuine business need to retain the valuable knowledge and skills of these employees in the long term, and their critical contribution to the Australian business to justify a permanent residency pathway for these off-list occupations.
By taking a more strategic approach, TMA assisted the company to safeguard their sales and product training personnel, demonstrate their need for a company-specific labour agreement, their commitment to advancing the skills of Australians, and reinforce their status as an Employer of Choice.
How TMA can help with a bespoke labour agreement
TMA can help businesses to secure a Labour Agreement to meet their needs. This is what you can expect from us if you need a Labour Agreement:
- Assessment – We work with you to understand the business’ objectives and future workforce needs. We then map out a tailored immigration strategy based on the specific labour needs, including options for how to fill those needs, explore possible pathways, and establish timelines.
- Preparation – We help you put together evidence and documentation to build a strong and effective business case to secure the Labour Agreement needed.
- Advocacy – Labour Agreement programs require detailed knowledge of immigration legislation as well as a strong understanding of contract law. Our immigration business partners have the commercial acumen and legal expertise to help structure the application in the best manner, managing lodgement of applications through expert negotiation with the Labour Agreement Section of the Department of Home Affairs on our clients’ behalf.
- Outcome – Once successful, TMA supports the rollout of the immigration program, including devising a plan to manage compliance and employer obligations.
- Partnership – We help your business to utilise the Labour Agreement to its full potential, providing training and assistance to your HR or recruitment team, preparing quality nomination and visa applications, providing full compliance management, and all other aspects of the immigration program for the duration of the five-year period to maximise efficiency and effectiveness.
For support and advice on how to get more out of your immigration program, contact The Migration Agency to speak to one of our experts.