Australia is taking a significant step forward with introducing the Strengthening Employer Compliance Act, which is set to commence on 1 July 2024. This landmark legislation aims to bolster employer compliance and safeguard temporary migrant workers from exploitation, marking a pivotal moment in Australia’s commitment to fair and ethical employment practices.

Key Features of the Act

The Strengthening Employer Compliance Act introduces several critical measures to protect workers and ensure employers adhere to ethical hiring practices. These measures include:

Criminalising Coercion: It is now a criminal offence to coerce or unduly pressure someone into violating their work-related visa conditions. This move targets those who exploit temporary visa holders by forcing them to work beyond their legal limits, such as the 48-hour cap for international students or the six-month restriction for working visa holders.

Prohibiting Convicted Employers: Employers convicted under these new offences will face a ban on hiring further temporary visa holders for a specified period. This period can be for five, ten years, or indefinitely, depending on the severity of the offence.

Public Disclosure: The names of prohibited employers will be published on the Home Affairs website, ensuring transparency and allowing potential employees to make informed decisions about their employers.

Enhanced Penalties: The Act significantly increases pecuniary and civil penalties to deter potential violators. Criminal penalties include up to two years imprisonment or fines of up to 360 penalty units (with each unit currently valued at $313), while civil penalties can reach up to 240 penalty units.

Empowering Authorities: The Australian Border Force (ABF) will receive increased powers and tools, including the ability to issue enforceable undertakings and compliance notices, further strengthening the enforcement of the Act.

Encouraging Reporting: The Act repeals Section 235 of the Migration Act, which previously made it an offence for visa holders to breach work conditions or for unlawful citizens to work. This change is designed to encourage victims of exploitation to come forward without fear of repercussion.

Consideration of Exploitation: Matters related to exploitation and compliance violations will be given weight under Section 116 of the Migration Act, ensuring that these issues are prioritised and addressed.

Implications for Employers

The introduction of the Strengthening Employer Compliance Act sends a clear message to employers across Australia: exploitation of temporary migrant workers will not be tolerated. Employers will be required to adhere strictly to visa work conditions and ensure that their hiring practices are ethical and lawful. The Act aims to create a more transparent and fair work environment for all, particularly those on temporary visas who may be more vulnerable to exploitation.

At Aspire Australia, we understand employers’ complexities and challenges in navigating migration laws and compliance requirements. With the new Strengthening Employer Compliance Act coming into effect, ensuring your practices align with the latest legal standards is more important than ever.

If you have questions or concerns about how this Act affects your business or need guidance on maintaining compliance while supporting your temporary migrant workforce, we are here to help. Contact Aspire Australia today to speak with your migration superheroes and ensure your business is prepared for this new era of employer compliance and worker protection.

Together, we can create a more equitable and just work environment for everyone in Australia.