Senate report recommends reforms of temporary worker visa programs

21 Mar 16

AUSTRALIA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A report by a Senate committee has found exploitation of temporary foreign workers and made 33 recommendations for changes.

What does the change mean? While the abuses cited by the report relate mostly to Working Holiday Maker programs, the report also reviewed the impact of the 457 visa program on employment opportunities for Australian workers, and several of the recommendations would impact employers that sponsor foreign workers under the 457 visa program.

  • Implementation timeframe: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Temporary Worker (Skilled) Subclass457 visas; Working Holiday Maker Subclasses 417 and 462.
  • Who is affected: 457 visa sponsors.
  • Business impact: If adopted, the recommendations would tighten program requirements and impose new obligations on sponsors.

Background: The Senate Committee on Education and Employment References released the report Thursday after a nearly year-long inquiry into temporary migration programs. The 355-page report, titled “A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders,” addresses abusive workplace conditions as well as a review of the impact of skilled migration on the local labour force.

Key recommendations include:

  • A prohibition on replacing a local worker with a 457 visa holder
  • Elimination of the exemption from labour market testing for skill levels 1 and 2, and labour market testing for all labour agreements and Designated Area Migration Agreements
  • Indexing of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to the average full-time weekly ordinary time earnings (AWOTE) as of 1 July 2015 and annually each financial year
  • 457 sponsors to pay a $4000 ‘training levy’ for each 457 visa to support training and apprentice programs and sectors experiencing labour shortages
  • 457 sponsors to hire one Australian tertiary graduate for every 457 visa employee
  • 457 (trade) sponsors to employ at least four apprentices and constituting 25 per cent of their total trades workforce
  • Review of the Working Holiday Maker programs and funding for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to collect data and set caps
  • Re-establishing the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) to make recommendations on policy
  • Greater monitoring and public data on the numbers of temporary workers, wages and occupations
  • Greater rights for temporary workers, including eligibility for entitlements, ability to make claims for workplace abuses and broader coverage under the Fair Work Act
  • Licensing to be required of labour hire contractors
  • Amending the Migration Act 1954 to make visa cancellation for noncompliance with a visa condition a ‘serious noncompliance.’

BAL Analysis: The report recommends broad changes that would impact 457 visa sponsors. BAL is following these proposals and will provide updates on significant developments and changes.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@balglobal.com

MARN: 9683856

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