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Position paper
Report cover

Breaking the silence: a proposal for whistleblower protections to enable migrant workers to address exploitation

Working conditions Whistle blowing Employment Law Law reform Migrants CALD Australia

Exploitation of migrant workers is pervasive and entrenched in workplaces across Australia and has been well-documented for years. To date, the vast majority of unlawful employer conduct has gone unchecked, in part because very few migrant workers report it and/or assert their rights.

Enhanced mechanisms are needed to address exploitation by ensuring government can gather intelligence about employer non-compliance and migrant workers who wish to pursue their rights are protected. This Research and Policy Guide proposes two new whistleblower reforms to enable migrant workers to safely take action against employers that violate Australian labour laws. These include (1) stronger legislative safeguards against visa cancellation for whistleblowers during a migrant worker’s stay and (2) a new short-term visa to enable migrant workers who are at the end of their stay to remain in Australia to pursue a civil labour claim against their employer.

These proposals include safeguards to ensure these protections are only available for migrant workers who are taking action to address meritorious and non-trivial breaches of their workplace rights, which have been vetted and certified by a government agency, court, or specialist legal professional in a union or non-profit legal service provider. While it is not possible to entirely eliminate risks of misuse of the protections or other undesired outcomes, the prospect of making genuine systemic inroads into labour non-compliance in Australia justifies the mitigated risks. In the absence of these robust visa protections, labour enforcement in Australia will continue to be seriously compromised and exploitation of migrant workers will remain rampant as employers rely on migrant workers’ silence.

Publication Details
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