Government cracks down on employers who hire illegal workers

Thursday 20 September 2012 @ 3.57 p.m. | Legal Research

New legal sanctions against noncompliant employers will come into force under the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Bill 2012, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced today.

The Bill implements further recommendations from Stephen Howell's 2012 system review. Mr Bowen announced today that the legislation "strikes a balance between targeting those employers who flout the rules, while taking care not to overstretch the resources of the vast majority of employers who seek to do the right thing." 

The Bill sets out the penalties for employers in breach of legislation, including a range of criminal and civil penalties. To encourage compliance, the government also intends to step up its awarneness campaign, helping employers access information regarding prospective employees' visa work status. 

The Minister's press release identifies the key features of the new legislation as:

  • amending the criminal offences and creating new non-fault civil penalty provisions and an infringement notice scheme for people who allow or refer an unlawful non-citizen to work, or allow or refer a lawful non-citizen to work in breach of a work-related visa condition

  • creating statutory defences where reasonable steps are taken at reasonable times to verify a foreign national worker's entitlement to work

  • broadening the application of criminal offences and civil penalty provisions to hold a person liable for participating in an arrangement, or series of arrangements, that results in a foreign national working without lawful entitlement

  • extending both criminal and civil liability, in certain circumstances, to executive officers of bodies corporate, partners in a partnership and members of an unincorporated association's committee of management

  • creating search warrant and notice to produce powers specifically to facilitate the investigation of suspected breaches of these offences and civil penalties.

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