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The Fair Work Ombudsman is now receiving more requests for assistance from visa-holders working in Australia than ever before.

“One in 10 of our requests for assistance are now coming from visa-holders. That’s significant and that is a trend that is concerning us greatly,” says Overseas Workers’ Team Director Carey Trundle.

Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $1.103 million in underpaid wages and entitlements for almost 700 workers who identified as visa-holders.

In the first nine months of this financial year, the Agency has already recouped $1.281 million for 345 underpaid visa-holders.

Visa-holders who contact the Fair Work Ombudsman seeking assistance are in the main 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female.

More than a third are aged between 26 and 30 and most were born in Korea, China, Germany, France or India.

Almost a quarter of all requests for assistance from visa-holders come from employees in the accommodation and food services sector, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is active in industries known to employ significant numbers of overseas workers – including hospitality, horticulture, cleaning, convenience stores and trolley collecting.

Fair Work Inspectors will target Byron Bay, Lismore, Gympie and Maroochydore this week as part of a year-long Inquiry into allegations that some unscrupulous employers are exploiting backpackers on working holidays. 

The 417 is a temporary visa issued by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to two years.

To be eligible to apply for a second year, 417 visa-holders must undertake 88 days’ specified work in a designated regional area in certain industries in their first year.

Mr Trundle says the deliberate exploitation of young, vulnerable backpackers who are seeking to extend their visa an additional 12 months – many of them from non-English speaking backgrounds with little understanding of their workplace rights – is totally unacceptable.

There were 183,428 working holiday visas granted by the DIBP in Australia last financial year and 45,950 second-year visas. This was an 18.2 percent increase on the previous financial year and equated to around one in four working holiday visa-holders being granted a 12-month extension.

Ms Trundle says 417 visa-holders have emerged as a strong priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is particularly interested in allegations that the ’88-day requirement’ for work in a designated regional area is being abused by some unscrupulous operators.

The allegations include underpayment, non-payment, employees paying employers and third parties for the granting of the second visa and the exploitation of workers in exchange for accommodation programs.

Source: Media Release, Fair Work Ombudsman 13 April 2015

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