The much discussed Omicron variant is giving a tough time to the rapidly growing sectors across the globe, one of which is the labour industry in Australia. According to the Australian Financial Review, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has aggravated labour shortage in several industries in Australia, prompting the lifting of the upcoming restrictions in the pandemic-affected industries, as part of a plan that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will present to state and territory leaders at a national cabinet meeting. Earlier, students were allowed to work 20-hours per week while pursuing education, but rising demand has persuaded them to make reforms in the current policy. Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that the federal government will eliminate the 40-hour-per-fortnight cap for student visa workers, allowing them to work as many hours as they like.
Who all are eligible under this temporary relaxation:
- Students having a RACS ID or a NAPS ID can work for a Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider or an aged care Approved Provider (the condition is if students are hired by a labour hire or a recruitment agency)
- Working for a recognised supplier of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (the condition is if students are hired by a labour hire or a recruitment agency)
- If students are working in the agriculture sector, tourism and hospitality sector.
- Permission to work in supermarkets or related distribution facilities in areas where COVID-19 lockdown limitations exist.
- Students may be eligible for a COVID-19 Pandemic (subclass 408) visa if they are working or have an offer of employment in one of the mentioned industries or completed their degree. This visa can only be applied for 90 days before their student visa expires.
- Employers whose major goal is to directly provide a service to tourists, when their operations are not categorised in the Division of Accommodation and Food Services under the ANZSIC system, is included in the tourism and hospitality industry. For more information, refer to this link: Australian Bureau of Statistics website.
Concerned measures to be undertaken during the pandemic, which will be reviewed by the government are mentioned here: Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 website
Even before Omicron exacerbated labour shortages, businesses were attempting to hire nearly 400,000 individuals to fill vacancies. According to the report certain industries, such as home builders were unable to operate on-site due to close contact with a virus-infected person or putting themselves at risk.
Eligible students to work under the temporary visa relaxation:
- Strike a balance between their work and class performance.
- Maintain necessary attendance criteria.
- Keep a track of the class enrollment
Students to violate the visa terms and conditions in the following situations:
- Students not attending classes
- Fail to maintain adequate progress in the class
- Cancel their enrollment.
Notice for the Employers
Employers must abide by Australian labour regulations in the future. Overseas workers, including international students, enjoy equal rights as other employees under Australian labour law.
During the implementation of these measures, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force will:
- Employers are allowed to exercise their discretion under the s116(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958. Employers have to ensure that the students working with them don’t have their visas revoked.
- Student visa holders are not referred for investigation of any suspected violation under section 235 of the Migration Act 1958 .This could be related to a student visa holder working excessive hours in violation of their visa conditions
- As an employer, the government will not send your or any relevant third-party labour hire firms for investigation of any potential offence under section 245AC of the Migration Act 1958. Allowing a student visa holder to work in violation of their visa terms could be an example of this.
If students could strike a balance between their education and the work permits, it would be easier for the Australian Government to implement more International student friendly laws, attracting more students to shortlist Australia as their study abroad destination.