The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have produced a new booklet for 457 visa holders to help them understand their legal rights when working in Australia.
It points out that employers must comply with both Australian workplace laws and immigration laws and overseas workers are entitled to receive pay and conditions at least as good as Australian workers who are doing the same work at the same workplace.
The Worker Protection Act 2008 protects overseas workers from exploitation and under the law sponsors must provide workers with the same terms and conditions as Australian workers.
They must not make deductions from pay, other than tax, without permission and only employ a visa holder in their approved skilled occupation.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is responsible for ensuring employers are meeting the legal requirements of Australian workplace laws.
Most people working in Australia are covered by the National Employment Standards. The NES apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system regardless of the award, agreement or contract of employment that applies to an employee.
The NES ensure that you have certain minimum conditions of employment. These minimum conditions cannot be reduced. They include a maximum standard working week of 38 hours for full time employees, plus ‘reasonable’ additional hours.
They also include the right to request flexible working arrangements to care for a child under school age, or a child under the age of 18 with a disability, parental and adoption leave of 12 months (unpaid), with a right to request an additional 12 months, four weeks paid annual leave each year plus an additional week for certain shift workers and ten days paid personal/ carer’s leave each year.
In addition to the NES employment may be covered by a modern award. Modern awards provide minimum wages and conditions for an industry or occupation. These conditions apply on top of the NES and include entitlements such as breaks, allowances and rates of pay for working at different times.
It also points out that employees have the right to be free from unlawful discrimination, the right to engage in industrial activities (including the right to become or not become a member of a union) and the right to be free from undue influence or pressure when negotiating individual arrangements.
Employees are also entitled to protection from having or exercising a workplace right which includes being entitled to a benefit under a workplace law or making a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman about their employment arrangements.
It also warns that a sponsoring employer cannot cancel a visa, only DIAC can grant, refuse or cancel visas. The department can provide information on visa choices, rights and obligations, including how to change sponsor or apply for permanent residence.
It points out that anyone who thinks they are not being treated fairly should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.