With an increase in media attention on illegal workers in recent years, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) are doubling their efforts when it comes to identifying instances of illegal work. This has included the introduction of an anonymous hotline, data sharing with the ATO, and raids on homes and businesses by the Australian Border Force.
In the last three years, The DHA has located 6,627 instances of illegal workers in Australia, issuing 1,130 Illegal Worker Warning Notices to businesses employing these workers (Home Affairs Reports 2016-2018).
While only 1% of temporary entrants neglected to maintain their lawful immigration status this year, there are estimated to be more than 60,000 foreigners (Jan 2018) living illegally in Australia. Many of these are ex-student and tourist visa holders who have overstayed their visas.
This can be a common problem for employers of visa holders, especially in busy small businesses like hospitality and retail that lack a dedicated HR Team. Given the complexity and inefficiency of the current VEVO system, many of these employers find it difficult to justify the time it takes to perform regular, on-going visa work rights checks.
Likewise, there are a number of pitfalls for larger businesses employing workers with valid visas, chiefly the work rights limitations of working holiday and student visas. With student visa holders only able to work 40 hours per fortnight and working holiday visa usually limited to a maximum of 6 months full-time work. Without regularly checking the work rights of visa-holding employees and ensuring rostering remains compliant, employers can face sizeable fines if caught in an audit, even if they were unaware of a change in visa status.
Thanks to The Department’s new data matching initiative with the ATO’s Single Touch Payroll system, employers are facing greater levels of scrutiny than ever before. Automatic work rights audits can now be conducted every time your business submits payroll information. Even small rostering errors may put employers in hot water.
Employers found in breach of their obligations to ensure all their staff have the right to work in Australia can face severe penalties. After receiving an administrative warning in the form of an Illegal Worker Warning Notice, the Department may issue fines up to $315,000 per illegal worker, or up to five years imprisonment. These penalties can fall directly on board members or company directors.
Furthermore, employing illegal workers (even unknowingly) can cause damage to a companies reputation. Many large businesses have faced negative press in recent years for breaching conditions of employment.
Education around current legislation and performing regular, ongoing work rights checks are two of the best ways to ensure a business is meeting their obligations as an employer of visa holders.
The Checkworkrights App and API assist employers to perform automated and instant VEVO checks to ensure ongoing compliance, without performing time-consuming manual checks through the Department of Home Affairs. Keep on top of your obligations with a free trial on either app store.
Published: January 02, 2019