How COVID-19 will affect Employers of Workers on 482 and 457 temporary visa holders in Australia

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves through the Australian workforce. It is expected that as many as 1 million people will lose their jobs in Australia over the coming weeks and months, with businesses needing to make extremely tough decisions.

Australians are able to turn to Centrelink and other government support packages, but there will be a significant number of workers who are on 482 and 457 temporary visas, who if let go, will actually remain their employers obligation, if they are not re-sponsored by a new employer within 60 days.

Many employers sponsoring overseas workers may not realise that their legal sponsorship obligations continue to exist even after they have terminated the employees. This is a situation that can be very costly.

The employer would be obligated to cover any costs the Department of Home Affairs incur in the locating, detaining and removing of the employee from wherever they may be in Australia back to their home country.

So what is the best course of action for businesses with these temporary work visas?

Recommended strategies for employers of 482 and 457 visa holder employees

  1. Stand down the worker.
    In this situation, you can stand down an employee. Under the National Employment Standards (NES), the employee would continue to accrue entitlements to annual leave and personal/carer’s leave
  2. Offer the worker unpaid leave.
    The worker remains employed, but they are taking unpaid leave. In this situation they would not accrue any leave entitlements. Keep the employee in their current position
  3. Keep the worker on his current contract with no change. This would only be the case if you believe your business will be able to support it

Strategies that not recommended without consulting with a specialist immigration lawyer

  1. Reduced hours andor reduced pay
    With these sponsored employees the rate of pay and hours form part of the visa sponsorship conditions. If you are considering this option, you would need to go back to your immigration lawyer and have the visa criteria revisited to ensure you are compliant with the legislation.
  2. Changing their contract terms
    This option is also fraught with potential problems for the same reason as the above, their employment terms are linked to the visa, so again you would need to speak to your immigration lawyer for advice.
  3. Retrenching or terminating the employee
    In this case, the employee continues to be the employer’s responsibility and the legal sponsorship obligations continue to exist for you unless they attain new employment and sponsorship within 60 days This means the cost of locating, detaining and removing the employee and their family from wherever they may be in Australia would fall to you to cover.

    If you were to take any of the above steps, it’s important that employers ensure they are compliant in that regard before taking steps.

    If the matter was brought to the attention of the department of home affairs you would also need to make sure the right records had been kept and overall compliance with sponsorship obligations. This is crucial if an audit was to be conducted.

    If you have any questions at all, please contact us by clicking here or give us a call on 1300 193 326 to ensure you are covered legally. We are working remotely but we are 100% business as usual for all clients through this COVID-19 outbreak.