Employers face “No Fault” fines for engaging illegal workers

The Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Act 2013 allows Immigration to clamp down on illegal work practices. The 2013 Act introduces a “no fault” system for civil penalties. This means that penalties will apply if a business engages workers illegally regardless of whether the business was actually aware of this.

An “infringement notice” system has been introduced in the 2013 legislation. This allows Immigration to levy fines against businesses of up to $15,300 without needing to initiate court proceedings. The burden of proof will be on the business to show that they have taken “reasonable steps” at “reasonable times” to check the work rights of their workers to avoid the fines.

Under s.486ZF of the new legislation, it is not necessary to prove the person’s intention, knowledge, recklessness, negligence or any other state of mind to establish a civil offence.

In other words, the fact that a person is working in breach of visa conditions could be enough for a business to be fined under the new legislation. A system of “strict liability” has been introduced which puts the burden of proof on the business to show that it has taken reasonable steps to check the visa conditions of its workers.