It is the responsibility of all businesses to employ legal workers. Legal workers are Australian citizens, permanent residents and non-citizens with Australian visas that allow them to work. Some visas, for example some visitor visas, do not allow non-citizens to work while they are in Australia. People who no longer hold a valid visa are also not allowed to work in Australia.

Valid working visas include:

•  Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417) – This visa permits the holders to do any kind of work while in Australia, for up to six months with each employer.

•  Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462) – This visa is for young people aged 18 to 30 who want to travel and work for up to 12 months in Australia. This visa allows workers to supplement the cost of their holiday through periods of temporary or casual employment.

•  Skilled Visas

Since 2007 it has been a criminal offence under the Migration Act to employ or refer a person who is not allowed to work in Australia.

On 1 June 2013, new laws introduced civil penalties and infringement notices for businesses that allow illegal workers. The law also broadens who can be held liable and provides new evidence gathering powers. The existing criminal penalties will remain.

The new penalties will apply where a person or business employs, contracts or refers:

•  an unlawful non-citizen to work; or

•  a non-citizen to work in breach of a visa condition that limits or restricts work.

Below are the penalty categories and amounts.


Maximum sanction

Illegal Worker Warning Notice administrative warning
  • individuals – $3060
  • body corporates – $15 300
Civil penalty
  • individuals – $15 300
  • body corporates – $76 500
Criminal offence two years imprisonment and/or fine:

  • individual – $20 400
  • body corporates – $102 000
Aggravated criminal offence five years imprisonment and/or fine:

  • individuals – $51 000
  • body corporates – $255 000

However, businesses will be able to avoid penalties by taking steps to check their workers can be legally employed. Here at The Quinn Group, our dedicated team of Employment Lawyers can assist you with all your employment law concerns. For more information on employment law submit an online enquiry or call us on 1300 QUINNS (1300 784 667)  or +61 2 9223 9166 to arrange an appointment today.