Fair Work Ombudsman releases report on Working Holiday Makers in Australia

NEGATIVE VIEW: A report by the Fair Work Ombudsman into working holidaymakers found 66 per cent believed they were being taken advantage of by their employer.

NEGATIVE VIEW: A report by the Fair Work Ombudsman into working holidaymakers found 66 per cent believed they were being taken advantage of by their employer.

A report that found 66 per cent of backpackers working on 417 visas in Australia feel they are being taken advantage of will have flow-on effects for the labour workforce in Tasmania.

That’s according to Primary Employers Tasmania, who believe the backpacker workforce in Tasmania is highly dependent on direct referrals.

The Fair Work Ombudsman released a report on Saturday following a two-year national inquiry into Working Holiday Makers in Australia.

The report surveyed 4000 people about their working conditions while on 417 visas and showed 66 per cent believed their employer was taking advantage of them by underpaying them.

However 38 per cent of respondents were positive about their regional work experiences and a majority of those would recommend the 417 visa to others.

The 417 visa is a temporary visa issued by the Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) to young people who want to holiday and work in Australia.

To be eligible to stay in Australia for a second year on a 417 visa, a visa-holder is required to undertake 88 days specified paid work in their first year in a designated regional area and in certain industries, such as agriculture, fishing, and meat-and-poultry production.

Primary Employers Tasmania’s Glynn Williams said the figures were “horrifying” but said he didn’t believe there was strong evidence any issues were happening in Tasmania.

“From a Tasmanian perspective it’s appalling [the figures] but the instances of systemic rorting of the system in Tasmania is very weak,” he said.

“There have been instances, but very few, and it’s always been dealt with very quickly after it has come to the attention of the farmer.”

Mr Williams said the timing of the report, to coincide with an ongoing debate around the federal government’s proposed “backpacker tax” was “extraordinary” but would put backpackers off from visiting Tasmania.

“Because Tasmania is a small place it does rely on direct referrals, backpackers don’t learn that Tasmania is worth visiting until they meet other backpackers on the mainland,” he said.

The report was released by Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James. Ms James said the Working Holiday Maker program was, in some case, being treated by both visa holders and employers as a “ticket” to work in Australia.

“In particular, the desire for a second-year 417 visa can drive vulnerable workers to agree to work for below minimum entitlements and in some circumstances, enter into potentially unsafe situations,” Ms James said.  

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