31 July 2019
Illegal workers Implication for employers
Businesses found to employ workers illegally can face:
- Infringement notices of up to $18,900 per offence;
- Penalties of up to $94,500 per offence if the Department decides to undertake civil penalty proceedings in a court; and/or
- Suspension or cancellation of sponsorship rights.
In the worst cases, individuals and companies can even face criminal prosecution with maximum penalties of imprisonment and fines of up to $126,000 per offence.
“Illegal workers” include:
- Workers without a visa;
- Workers that have a visa but do not have the relevant permission to work in Australia (for example, TSS visa holder working for new employer while still sponsored by their previous employer); or
- Workers that have a visa that allows employment but it is limited (for example, students working beyond their permitted hours).
Even if civil or criminal sanctions are not pursued, employing an illegal worker can affect the ability of a company to sponsor workers. Something as simple as an ‘Illegal Worker Warning Notice’ may later be considered adverse information and can lead to rejection of future sponsorship applications.
It is important to know that the Department can monitor a business at any time. This may be formal monitoring request or an unannounced visit.
Employers must therefore be vigilant in checking work rights of all employees. Some of the steps employers can take include:
- Requesting all new hires to provide evidence of their Australian citizenship/permanent residence/visa status;
- Using the Department’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) checks. VEVO allows an employer to check if a foreign worker has a visa with the relevant permission to work;
- Ensuring compliance with sponsorship obligations at all times in relation to sponsored workers;
- Ensuring care is taken if hiring workers through on-hire arrangements. Do not assume the labour hire company has taken steps to ensure the worker has the relevant permission to work. Best practice is to also request evidence of their visa status and associated visa conditions;
- Maintaining a record of the checks made. This will be helpful in the event of any future audit or monitoring.
Please contact your advisor if your organisation requires assistance with registering for VEVO checks, or if you have any query.
DISCLAIMER This information is current as of 31 July 2019 and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.