New strategy launched to stamp out exploitation of international workers


International students are encouraged to seek free help from the Fair Work Ombudsman following the release of a new strategy aimed at raising awareness of workplace rights among international students.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James is encouraging international students to speak up if they have any concerns relating to their employment.

“We know that international students can be reluctant to speak out when something is wrong, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation.  This is especially the case when students think that seeking assistance will damage future job prospects or lead to the cancellation of their visa,” she said.

“We’ve seen cases where employers have threatened international students with deportation for working more than the number of hours permitted under their visa when they have raised questions about their entitlements.

“In some cases these same employers have altered payslips and underpaid hourly rates in order to disguise the number of hours the student has worked.”

According to research commissioned by the Fair Work Ombudsman, many international students were not aware of their rights under Australian workplace laws.

“The research showed that when it comes to international students in the Australian workplace, 60 per cent believe that if they report a workplace issue to their employer the situation will either remain the same, or get worse,” she said.

Ms James said some students told researchers that their employers threatened to deport or ‘blacklist’ them for future work if they complained.

“I would like to reassure international students that in line with an agreement between my agency and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled, even if you’ve worked more hours than you should have under your visa.

“We know that it can be difficult to understand what is right or wrong at work, or to speak up if you are concerned.

“This is why we are committed to making it as easy as possible for international students to access the help they need.”

Last financial year, only 18 per cent of litigations filed in court by the Fair Work Ombudsman involved an international student, which is why Ms James is encouraging all international students to get informed about their workplace rights.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website has information available in 30 different languages.

For more information visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50.