What is Foreign Worker Exploitation?

10 Jul


Australian Government’s Bill to Curb Foreign Worker Exploitation Sparks Discussion

Foreign worker exploitation has been a growing concern in Australia, and recently, the Australian government introduced a new bill to address this issue. The bill has sparked discussions among employers and employees alike, as they seek to understand what exactly constitutes exploitation. To shed some light on this matter, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has provided some much-needed clarification.

According to the DHA, the following actions are considered exploitation, but this list is not exhaustive:


Coercion or threats to cancel an employee’s visa

Employers must not use threats or coercion to cancel a foreign worker’s visa as a means to exploit them.


Paying less than the entitled wage

It is illegal to pay foreign workers less than what they are entitled to receive. Employers should ensure that all employees are paid fairly and in accordance with Australian laws.


Imposing unfair deductions, deposits, or ‘cash-back’ schemes

Employers must not unfairly deduct money from employees’ wages or require them to pay deposits or participate in ‘cash-back’ schemes.


Denial of workplace benefits

Foreign workers are entitled to the same workplace benefits as Australian employees, including paid leaves and superannuation. Foreign workers are entitled to these benefits and employers cannot refuse them.yers cannot refuse them.


Unlawful possession of an employee’s passport

It is illegal for anyone other than the employee to possess their passport. Employers must treat their employees’ personal documents with respect and should not withhold them.


Pressuring employees to work beyond visa work conditions

Employers must not pressure foreign workers to work beyond the conditions of their visa, such as rostering a student visa holder for more than 48 hours a fortnight.


Demanding advance payment or a ‘deposit’ for job procurement

It is unlawful for employers to require job seekers to make advance payments or deposits for the chance to be considered for employment.


Evading tax responsibilities by paying employees in cash

Employers must adhere to their tax obligations by refraining from paying their employees in cash and adhering to appropriate payroll procedures.


Enforcing unpaid training sessions

It is important for employers to ensure that their employees receive proper compensation for all training sessions. It is not acceptable to expect foreign workers to attend training sessions without any form of compensation.


Incorrectly classifying workers as independent contractors

Employers must accurately categorise their workforce as either employees or independent contractors. Failure to do so will result in workers being deprived of their rightful benefits. It is crucial that employers take this responsibility seriously and ensure that all workers are classified correctly. Sponsored employees must be employed full time by the employer (i.e., be a tax file employee, and not a contractor).


Deducting unjust charges from wages

Employers are required to refrain from making any unjustified deductions from their employees’ wages for services such as accommodation, training, food, or transportation. Deductions must be reasonable and based on solid grounds.


It is not within an employer’s power to cancel visas.

It’s essential to understand that, as employers, we are not authorised to revoke the visas of any foreign worker. This power lies solely with the Department of Home Affairs. As an employer, it is your responsibility is to stay well-informed and compliant with the immigration regulations to ensure the safety and security of all employees.


It is crucial that employers take proactive measures to safeguard the rights and welfare of all workers in Australia and prevent the exploitation of foreign workers. To ensure compliance with these important values and to gain further knowledge, we strongly advise visiting the Department of Home Affairs website for guidance and further information.


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