12 December 2006

Australia: Government asks employers to check workers are legal

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Employers of Harvest Trail workers in Australia's Northern Territory are being asked to clamp down on illegal workers by making more stringent checks on work permits.

The call comes as Parliament considers new tougher legislation that would make it a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly hire people who do not have a right to work in Australia, with penalties of up to $66,000 and two years imprisonment.

Currently the easiest way for young people aged between 18-30 to gain lawful employment in Australia is through a Working Holiday Visa. A Working Holiday Visa gives eligible candidates from designated countries the right to travel in Australia and work for up to six months at a time for any one employer.

The Government is concerned that not every employer, especially during December's busy harvest, is taking the correct steps to ensure all their seasonal employees are not flouting the law by working.

"The Northern Territory is currently experiencing some high demand harvest times and past experience indicates some people working on the harvests are doing so illegally," Immigration minister Amanda Vanstone said.

"The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs offers employers or contractors the opportunity to check if people are entitled to work through the Entitlement Verification Online (EVO) system or by contacting the department,” Senator Vanstone said.

"EVO is a free online system that allows employers to check the work entitlements of their workers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Officers from the department can visit worksites to explain how to register and conduct checks on the work rights of potential employees."

The Australian Working Holiday Visa is open to nationalities of 19 countries, including British and Irish citizens, and last year over 65,000 young people took part in the scheme.

The penalties for people caught working illegally in Australia can include deportation and detention, plus any future visa applications for Australia may be adversely affected.

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