Overseas workers, including students, urged to be aware of new fair work laws in Australia

by Ray Clancy on October 12, 2017

in Jobs in Australia

Students, backpackers and people newly arrived to work in Australia are being reminded that there are new fair work laws now in place which should protect them from exploitation.

Overseas workers, including students and backpackers working part time, can become victims of unscrupulous employers who take advantage of the fact that they may not be aware of employment law.

Australia WorkerBut the recently introduced Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 means there are new, higher penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws and record keeping breaches.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published a range of information and resources on its website at www.fairwork.gov.au aimed at assisting all workplace participants to understand and comply with their obligations.

‘In passing the new laws, the Parliament has reflected the community’s concerns about deliberate exploitation of vulnerable workers,’ said Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.

In one recent case two British backpackers working on a farm contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman when they became concerned that they were being underpaid. It was discovered that the flat rate they were being paid for the work on a crocodile farm in Queensland was indeed too low. They received more than $13,000 in back pay following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

But there are concerns that students in particular can be exploited. James pointed out that of all the groups that contact the ombudsman the number of overseas students is disproportionately low compared to other visa categories.

‘We know that international students can be reluctant to speak out when something is wrong, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. This is especially the case when students think that seeking assistance will damage future job prospects or lead to the cancellation of their visa,’ said James.

‘We’ve seen cases where employers have threatened international students with deportation for working more than the number of hours permitted under their visa when they have raised questions about their entitlements,’ she explained.

‘In some cases these same employers have altered payslips and underpaid hourly rates in order to disguise the number of hours the student has worked. I would like to reassure international students that in line with an agreement between my agency and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled, even if you’ve worked more hours than you should have under your visa,’ she added.

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