No place for small business in s457 fast-track plan?

Plans being considered to fast-track hiring overseas workers on temporary work visas for employers with established reputation could leave small businesses out in the cold, industry insiders say.

Immigration minister Chris Evans is set to consider a plan formulated by an industry reference group under which big employers with a good record when it comes to hiring temporary overseas workers will be able to obtain Government approval more quickly.

“If BHP wants to bring in an engineer, should they have to go through as much red tape as a small construction subcontractor who is looking to source labour for the minimum salary level from a non-English-speaking country?” Evans told Fairfax reporters.

But while a fast-track mechanism could help hard-pressed employers get staff more quickly – it currently takes an average six to eight weeks to bring a worker to Australia on a s457 – KPMG executive director of migration services Karen Waller says small business could be left out in the cold.

“These rules will benefit corporations who do the right thing, and that makes sense, but small businesses still need people and they may struggle to access these things and that could leave them exposed compared to the big corporation with a track record,” Waller says.

A fast-track plan would also do little to assist recruitment and on-hire companies, many of which help small businesses recruit workers from overseas, according to Recruitment and Consulting Services Association policy adviser Charles Cameron.

The recruitment industry has struggled to utilise s457 visas since changes introduced last year imposed significant training and financial obligations on them.

“If BHP wants to bring in an engineer why shouldn’t they go through same process as a small subcontractor – on-hire companies supply workers under s457 to many contractors who are not very large, and do so professionally, so you can’t just look after the top end of town,” Cameron says.


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