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New criminal sanctions seek to prevent exploitation of migrant workers

7 March 2024
New criminal sanctions seek to prevent exploitation of migrant workers

New criminal and civil sanctions to crack down on migrant worker exploitation are set to become law on 1 July 2024.

From 1 July 2024, the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Act 2024 amends the Migration Act 1958 to:

  • create criminal and civil penalties for persons who unduly influence or coerce a migrant worker to:
    • breach a work-related condition of their visa
    • accept an exploitative work arrangement to meet a work-related condition of their visa.
  • ban employers who have breached employment and migration laws applying to migrant workers from employing them in the future
  • publicly name the employers who are banned from employing migrant workers.

The legislation was passed after recommendations from the recommendations from the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce Report.

Migrant workers, including those employed as labour hire workers, often face significant challenges in Australia including exploitation by employers in relation to wages, accommodation and work hours.

In addition, it is likely that any businesses who are found to have contravened these laws would face licensing action under the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic), including cancellation of their labour hire licence.

More information

Information on the legislation amendments can be found on the Parliament of Australia website.

Last year, the Australian government announced changes to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, as well as new protections for migrant workers.

The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) recently undertook a communications campaign for horticulture workers, an industry with a large number of migrant workers, to raise their awareness of their rights and how to report unfair treatment by labour hire businesses.