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Right to work in Australia

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Australia requires all employers to take reasonable steps to ensure they are not employing, referring or contracting illegal workers. Penalties for not doing so are heavy, up to $108,000 per illegal worker, regardless of whether the employer knew someone was an illegal worker or not – so it is worth checking!

It can be complex in our multi-cultural society to know who is and who isn’t a legal worker – frankly you can’t make assumptions, you need to check.

Australian citizens are legal workers and have unlimited permission to work in Australia. To confirm this status, an employee or potential employee should provide proof of Australian Citizenship – Australian Birth Certificate, Australian Citizenship Certificate with additional photo I.D. or Australian Passport.

Australian permanent residents and New Zealand Citizens also have unlimited permission to work in Australia. To confirm this status, an employee or potential employee should provide evidence, in the form of a New Zealand Passport or an International Passport, that the employer can use to check right-to-work status.

Employers can then check a person’s right-to-work status and visa details by registering for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection online system Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) page of the Department’s website; www.border.gov.au Alternatively HR Guru’s can do this for you.

Foreign nationals may have limited or unlimited right to work in Australia. For an employer to verify the work-rights of a foreign national, an employee or potential employee should provide their International Passport. Employers should check a person’s visa details using VEVO.  VEVO advises the conditions associated with a person’s visa, including any work limitations, or if they have no work rights and Visa expiry dates. If there are no work restrictions associated with that person’s visa, the employer can be confident that person is a legal worker.

If there are work-restrictions, the employee can still be employed legally, provided those restrictions are adhered to. Breaching these restrictions however can incur serious penalties. Employers found to have employed, referred or contracted a foreign national who does not have permission to work or is in breach of their visa conditions (an illegal worker) can face penalties of up to $108,000 per illegal worker.

An example of how easy it is to breach these laws:

Bill is hired on a part-time basis, as his Student Visa allows him to work up to 20 hours per week during school term, and full time outside of school terms. For the first year or so, Bill works 20 hours per week, then full time over the holidays. Bill moves to a different department, or gets a new supervisor, who has a need for more labour. He asks Bill to work overtime or rosters him on additional hours, Bill accepts, because he needs the money, and ends up working more than his allowed 20 hours per week. Suddenly the employer is in breach of Bill’s visa conditions.

To find out more about your obligations under the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Right-to-Work laws or to arrange an audit of your workplace, feel free to get in touch with us at HR Gurus, where would be able to assist.

Written by resident HR Guru – Louise Betts

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