Australian Ombud To Probe Working Visa Abuses

By Dex Tennyson, for 12 August, 2014

Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman is to conduct a review of the wages and conditions offered to overseas workers in Australia under the 417 Working Holiday Visa, following allegations of exploitation.

In the past two financial years, the Fair Work Ombudsman says it has received about 2,000 requests for assistance from workers identifying themselves as 417 visa holders. In particular, there are complaints that some employers are taking advantage of the requirement that a 417 visa holder must work in a regional area for 88 days in order to gain a one-year extension. Workers who need the extension are more likely to be in a remote location, and are reportedly more likely to agree to lower pay and/or poor conditions.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says that it will analyze immigration data involving the businesses most commonly facilitating the extension, engage with community and support groups, and work with employer associations, unions, and other key stakeholders to gain further insight on the matter.

The body will be looking for evidence of non-compliance in various areas, including: non-payment of wages, underpayment of wages, employees making payments to employers and third parties in return for documentation supporting their second visa application, and exploitation of employees in exchange for accommodation programs.

The Ombudsman says it has commenced litigation in respect of 51 overseas workers' cases since 2009, with issues concerning the restaurant industry said to be most prevalent. The identified underpayments from these cases amounted to AUD3.8m (USD3.5m), and the largest penalty imposed so far has been AUD343,860. Since July 1, 2013, the Ombudsman has also had an expanded role to monitor 457 visa holder sponsorship obligations (Temporary Worker (Skilled) Visa).

It has drawn attention to its Fair Work Infoline, which can be contacted by overseas workers who are concerned that their workplace rights have been breached.

Tags: Australia | Expats | Working Abroad | Welfare | Work | Working Abroad | Working Abroad |


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