The Australian government continues to impose travel restrictions on anyone who has left or transited mainland China within the previous 14 days and who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents, New Zealand citizens resident in Australia, diplomats or an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Immediate family members have been defined by the government to include spouses (including de facto partners), legal guardians and dependents.
Whilst the Prime Minister's directive has been for immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents to be allowed to return to Australia, in practice there are inconsistencies of this policy being implemented, particularly in relation to defacto partners or partners who hold visitor or student visas.
Visa cancellations may apply to those temporary visa holders who are currently outside Australia unless otherwise exempt.
These temporary travel restrictions will also be applicable to those seeking to transit through Australia en route to another country.
The current travel ban was extended until Saturday 29 February 2020.
Attorney-General's proposal to stop underpaying employers from hiring foreign workers
As part of the Attorney-General's Department's strategy to address systemic wage underpayments in the Australian workforce, it has been proposed that bans are placed on employers, prohibiting them from hiring foreign workers, where the employer has failed to prevent wage underpayment. It has also been recommended that those non-compliant employers display a notice admitting to having underpaid their employees.
These proposals form part of the discussion paper released by the Attorney-General's department calling for public submissions regarding the operation of the current compliance and enforcement framework relating to protection of employees' wages and entitlements. The invitation for submissions calls for input on a range of issues including thresholds at which certain behaviour should be criminalised, the potential penalties and how the changes would apply to corporations. The Australian Government considers it "unacceptable that there is a persistence of underpayment and exploitation behaviours by a small number of employers and considers there to now be a strong case that the current penalty, compliance, and enforcement framework for breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act), established over a decade ago now, needs to be improved."
These proposals come as a result of the recommendations published in the Report of the Migrant Workers' Taskforce published in March 2019 which provided the Government with recommendations and a whole Government strategy to combat foreign worker exploitation in Australia. This Taskforce's report focused on the exploitation of workers on unsponsored visas, particularly the working holiday and international student visas.
Since 18 March 2015 Border Force have publically listed sanctioned sponsors who have breached their sponsorship obligations under the Migration Act 1958. Sanctions only apply to those employers who sponsor individuals under the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS)(subclass 482) visa, the Sponsor Training (subclass 407) visa and Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa. The current framework does not impose hiring bans on employers who have underpaid foreign workers on other non-sponsored visa categories, such as international student visa holders, who are amongst the most vulnerable workers.
It is paramount for businesses to conduct an audit to pre-empt potential non-compliance issues. Please reach out to us if you have any queries regarding the current penalties/sanctions that apply to sponsors who breach their sponsorship obligations stipulated under immigration law.
Skilled Migration Occupation Lists Review - Traffic Light Bulletin Consultation
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment have released the results from the December 2019 - February 2020 consultation which has 11 occupations flagged for removal, 17 for occupational list changes and 4 occupations to be introduced to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List.
Notably, the ANZSCO occupations of Sales and Marketing Manager (131112) and ICT Project Manager (135112) have been marked for transfer from the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (allowing for a stay period of up to 2 years) to the Medium and Long term Strategic Skills List (allowing for a stay period of up to 4 years, with permanent residency pathways available).
It is recommended that you review this list to determine whether or not the proposed changes will impact your workforce.