International students and immigrants in Australia whose command of English makes then afraid of reporting workplace issues can now do so in a number of different languages.

It is well established that those who arrive to work in Australia, particularly from Asian countries, are open to exploitation in terms of pay and working hours and can be afraid to report their employers.

Farm Work

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Sometimes they are also worried that they will lose their job or be found to have breached their visa conditions, but the Fair Work Ombudsman is making it easier for migrant workers to report workplace concerns.

The agency had launched its popular Anonymous Report function in 16 languages other than English, including Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Spanish. The new tool was developed to overcome some of the barriers that migrant workers face when dealing with workplace issues.

'Factors such as limited English skills, cultural barriers and a lack of awareness of workplace rights mean that migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace,' said Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.

'These same factors also make it difficult for migrant workers to know where or how to seek help. We have also commissioned research showing that when it comes to international students in the Australian workplace, 60% believe that if they report a workplace issue to their employer the situation will either remain the same, or get worse,' she pointed out.

'My agency is aiming to break down these barriers and make it as easy as possible for migrant workers to report their concerns to us. Being able to make an anonymous report in languages other than English is a key step in enabling migrant workers to readily engage with the Fair Work Ombudsman,' she added.

The Fair Work Ombudsman originally launched the Anonymous Report function in May 2016 to allow the community to report potential workplace breaches, in recognition that some employees are reluctant to complain about workplace issues.

Since the launch it has received more than 10,000 tipoffs with 15% of these coming from visa holders and intelligence gathered via the anonymous report tool enables the agency to target its compliance and education activities.

'Improving the employment experience of migrant workers in Australia is a priority. We understand that it can be hard to speak up if you are facing issues at work, but we hope that our new translated Anonymous Report function will encourage more migrant workers to do so,' James said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also knows that visa holders working in Australia may be reluctant to seek assistance if they think that doing so will lead to adverse consequences, such as damaging future job prospects or cancellation of their visa.

'I would like to reassure visa holders 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,' James added.