The impact of migration amendment regulations on employers and the dissolution of golden handcuffs

The impact of migration amendment regulations on employers and the dissolution of golden handcuffs

The Migration Amendment (Work Related Visa Conditions) Regulations 2024, issued by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, has introduced significant changes to Australia’s immigration landscape.

These changes are set to impact employers and the so-called ‘golden handcuffs’ that previously bound sponsored workers to their employers.

Enhancing labour market mobility

The amendment Regulations have been designed to enhance the labour market mobility of temporary migrants under the following visa subclasses: Subclass 457 (Temporary Work (Skilled)), Subclass 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage), and Subclass 494 (Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional)).

The key change is that current and future holders of these visas are now provided a maximum period of 180 consecutive days in which they may cease to work in accordance with the normal 365 of visa conditions that would otherwise restrict their ability to work outside of their sponsorship arrangement and up to a maximum of 365 days over their Visa Grant period.

This means that during this period, a visa holder may work outside of their nominated sponsor, including in occupations that are not listed in their most recently approved sponsorship nomination.

Addressing power imbalance

The reform will reduce the dependency of certain temporary migrants on a single employer sponsor to maintain their lawful status in Australia. It addresses the existing power imbalance, giving workers the confidence to raise workplace issues, leave exploitative situations, report exploitation, and support investigations into employer conduct.

Previously, the ‘golden handcuffs’ of employer-sponsored visas created a power imbalance between employers and temporary migrant workers. Workers were often reluctant to leave exploitative situations or report unfair treatment for fear of jeopardising their visa status. The new regulations have largely removed these ‘golden handcuffs’, providing workers with greater flexibility and protection.

Productivity benefits and challenges for employers

The changes are expected to drive productivity benefits for employers and the Australian economy, as they allow migrant workers to switch jobs more easily. This could reduce the likelihood of unfair treatment and exploitation, leading to a healthier and more equitable work environment.

However, these changes also mean that employers will need to adapt to a more dynamic labour market. They may need to invest more in retaining their skilled migrant workers, as these workers now have more freedom to change employers.

Future outlook

The Migration Amendment (Work Related Visa Conditions) Regulations 2024 represent a significant shift in Australia’s approach to temporary migrant workers. While they pose new challenges for employers, they also offer opportunities for a more flexible, fair, and productive labour market.

Additionally, the Australian Government’s Migration Strategy flagged there would be changes to the eligibility requirements for employer sponsored PR, which would mean no longer having to work for the same employer for two years to be eligible – a change that we will be keeping abreast of.

How BDO can help

Stay informed about Australia’s immigration shift. Read our summary of the key changes you need to know about: Australia’s immigration shift: Navigating the July 2024 changes.

BDO Migration Services are ready to assist our clients in navigating these changes. Whether you’re an employer seeking skilled workers or an individual planning your Australian journey, our team is here to guide you. Contact our Migration Services team to learn more.