Measures put in place by the government to combat COVID-19 has seen many businesses forced to pause operations and/or stand down their employees. This has led to some confusion for employers who are standard business sponsors and their obligations relating to employees holding Subclass 457/482 visas. Below are some of the most commons queries:
Q. Is it ok to stand down employees on Subclass 457/482 visas?
A. Yes. Visa holders who have been stood down, as opposed to laid off, will maintain their visa validity. Businesses will still have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal circumstances.
Q. Is it ok to reduce the hours of a Subclass 457/482 visa holder due to the lockdown/restrictions imposed?
A. Yes. As long as their hourly rate stays the same, the business is able to meet the relevant sponsorship obligations. The Department of Immigration has also confirmed that reduced hours will not lead to a breach of visa condition.
Whilst restrictions have started to ease in most parts of Australia, sponsors should still remember that there are strict inbound travel restrictions, i.e. our border is still ‘closed’. This means that only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members can enter the country. Others will need to obtain an exemption on the basis of exceptional circumstances. Therefore, it is more important than ever to focus on employee retention strategy – finding a replacement employee has become much more challenging with our border situation. We recommend the following:
- If possible, apply early for a new Subclass 482 visa if the business still has a genuine need to employ the visa holder. This would ensure the lawful status of visa holders, and there would be minimum/no interruption for them to continue working.
- Sponsors may also consider permanent residency, which serves as a great incentive for employees to commit, which in turn improves employee retention.
There are many uncertainties during this time. We encourage employer sponsors to get in touch with us if there are any queries in relation to sponsorship obligations and workforce planning.