EMPLOYERS WILL need to check whether or not foreign employees and contractors are entitled to work in Western Australia, following amendments to migration law that came into effect late last month.
The changes may result in employers committing a criminal offence, if they knowingly or recklessly allow an ‘illegal worker’ to work or refer an illegal worker for work for another business, according to Jason Berry, a partner in KPMG’s migration services practice in WA.
“These new offences will apply to employers and labour suppliers who engage or refer illegal workers on from August 2007,” said Berry.
The ‘allow to work’ offences are relatively broad and apply to a number of work situations over and above the traditional employer/employee relationship.
The broader relationships caught by these new provisions include: contracts of services; contracts for services (such as independent contractor arrangements); and bailment or licensing of chattels, such as taxi drivers.
The referral offences contained in these new provisions have application to businesses that refer people to work. This would include, for example, Job Network organisations and labour hire companies.
Employers should review their current employment and contracting procedures to ensure that they do not breach these requirements, as the penalties that can be imposed are severe, he said.
Individuals who are convicted of these offences face fines of up to $13,200 and/or two years imprisonment. Companies could face fines of up to $66,000 per illegal work offence, Berry said.
As such, it was essential that all passports of foreign workers are checked to ensure that they are lawfully able to reside and work in Australia.
Berry said there are mechanisms available for employers to confirm if an individual is entitled to work in Australia. Employers can check their prospective employees’ work rights using the Entitlement Verification Online System (EVO) or the Work Rights Fax Back Facility.
Employers must also recognise that breaching of these obligations may also jeopardise their ability to bring in skilled workers into Australian using the subclass 457 visa, Berry said.