As of the 23rd of March 2020, many businesses across Australia have been forced to close their doors, or limit their services, in light of the coronavirus crisis.   

Currently, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the world, causing mass disruptions to many businesses and creating extreme uncertainty amongst communities. 

According to the ABS (2020), approximately half of Australian businesses have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 in the past two weeks. Australian businesses, employers and workers are now struggling to adjust to new restrictions that have significantly disadvantaged their productivity, profitability and viability. 

In the previous two weeks, COVID-19 has had the most significant impact upon the Accommodation & Food Services sector, with 78% of these businesses reporting that they have been adversely impacted by the virus.   

Australian businesses are now in the process of down-scaling their operations, cutting costs and trying their best to stay afloat during these tough times. It is expected that many employers of visa holders are currently considering the impact of COVID-19 on their sponsored workers. 

The FAQ for Employers of Sponsored Workers outlined below may give you an idea of what steps you need take to ensure your business stays afloat during these unprecedented times.

1. Can I reduce the hours of my sponsored workers, or move them to part-time work? 

Both 457 and 482 visa programs have been created to fill genuine skill shortages within the Australian labour market. A requirement of the grant of a 482 visa, is that the nominated occupation must be for full-time work. The majority of 457 visas are also often approved nominations for full-time work. Therefore, reducing the work hours of your sponsored employee to part-time may decrease their overall earnings and therefore fail to meet the sponsor obligations under Regulation 2.79.  

As it stands, a TSS Visa holder cannot work reduced hours as their annual earnings must not be less than their approved salary that was indicated in their visa application.  

However, a 457 Visa holder may reduce their work hours, if:  

  • The new terms and conditions of their employment are in line with current Australian workplace standards and are not less favourable than an Australian worker (such as a permanent resident or citizen of Australia) that is performing the same work at the same location.  
  • The same rate of pay (in line with their approved salary) for the reduced hours worked. Therefore, they must be earning at least the amount of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold which sits at AUD53,900 per annum.  
  • If the approved position of the sponsored person is imposed with a caveat that requires a minimum amount of annual earnings, then they must earn at least that amount. 

2. Can I reduce my sponsored workers’ wages?  

If you lodge a new nomination with a lower wage and the wage is at the market rate and above or equal to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), then you are able to reduce the wage of a sponsored worker.  

3. What about Leave Without Pay (LWOP)?  

A sponsored worker that takes Leave Without Pay (LWP) will not be risking their visa, provided the leave is for less than three months. The Department has been known to give special consideration where there are exceptional circumstances that warrant a sponsored worker staying longer than three months. It is expected that the coronavirus crisis may be taken into account as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and can be used to by sponsored workers that need to take more than three months of unpaid leave. 

4. Can I terminate the employment of a sponsored worker?  

You must notify the Department within 28 calendar days, if you are required to terminate the employment of a sponsored worker.  

The sponsored worker will then be given a time-frame in which they are expected to leave Australia, find a new employer and lodge necessary application to transfer their visa across, or lodge another application for a visa to extend their stay in Australia.

TSS visa holders must take action within 60 days of being laid off.  If a 457 Visa holder had their visa granted on or after 19 November 2016, then they will have 60 days to take action. If the 457 Visa holder had their visa granted before 19 November 2016, then their time limit is 90 days.  

If you need assistance or advice with your visa application, Results Migration are the best in the field, with a team of experienced migration lawyers and registered migration agents that are available to guide you through this complex area of law. Call Results Migration on 1800 808 717 or email us on [email protected] and book your free consultation today!