Are your employees authorized to work in Australia? Know the Risks!

This is a straight forward question, but one that has some very serious legal implications. Under Australian Law, if the business is found to have willfully or recklessly employed a worker who does not hold a valid work visa they may be subject to a $66,000 fine per illegal worker, 2 years imprisonment and/or $13,200 fine per incident for individuals. When the offence is considered to be aggravated, (i.e. when an illegal worker is being exploited through slavery, forced labour or sexual servitude) employers can be punished per illegal worker with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or fines up to $33 000 for individuals and $165 000 for companies.
Should your employment agency be referring an illegal worker to your business, then they are also subject to the same liabilities.

Who is an illegal worker?

Illegal workers are non-Australian citizens who are working in Australia without a visa, or who are in Australia lawfully but working in breach of their visa conditions. As an example, this would include workers who are holding 457 business visas but are not working for the visa sponsor.

How can I make sure a prospective employee is authorised to work?

Asking the prospective employee for proof of work entitlement is mandatory. Sight and photocopy the visa stamp in their passport. Even then you may not be able to work out their legal employment status. Accordingly, the Australian Department of Immigration provides an online Visa Entitlement Verification Service which allows employers to easily check the entitlements of non-citizen. You may also call 1800 505 550.

How do I validate an Australian Citizen?

Naturally, all Australian Citizens are entitled to work in Australia. But it is important that you don’t simply take their word for it. You will need to validate that whoever you’re employing is an Australian Citizen by asking to sight either:

  • An Australian passport
  • An Australian citizen Certificate
  • A certificates of evidence of citizenship, or
  • An Australian birth certificate.

Don’t feel uncomfortable asking for this information as it is your responsibility under law to do so. Not doing so is may be deemed as ‘reckless’ which again leaves you liable to criminal prosecution.

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