31 March 2020
The Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA) template was released in March 2020.
Like other labour agreements, the HILA is intended to assist approved businesses to sponsor skilled foreign workers when there is a need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market. Once complete, a labour agreement is generally in effect for five years from the date the Commonwealth Government signs the agreement.
HILA is available for employees seeking the following visas:
The template may be used by employers who are seeking to sponsor employees on the above visas. To do so, a copy of the template can be requested through ImmiAccount and must be submitted with your supporting documentation. The overall approval process can take approximately 6-12 months. However, once the approval process is complete, a sponsoring employee can use the HILA for numerous foreign workers, for the duration of the agreement.
Below are some key areas to note when going through the HILA template.
Nomination of an overseas worker
The sponsor may only nominate an overseas worker in certain circumstances and for one of the above mentioned visas. The overseas worker must be nominated for a specific approved occupation listed in Schedule 2 (e.g., Productions Horticulture Supervisors, Agriculture Technician and Mobile Plant Operator). Without the HILA it would not otherwise be possible to employ a foreign worker to fill many of the listed occupations.
Overseas workers must still meet the same visa obligations of the visa application process. This includes the general requirements surrounding health and character.
As with any Australian visa sponsorship arrangement, a sponsor under HILA would have certain obligations which it must satisfy. Among other things, this includes the obligations to cooperate with inspectors, ensure equivalent terms and conditions of employment, notify the Department of Home Affairs about changes in circumstances, and to keep records.
Any applicant for a visa connected with an occupation listed in the HILA must satisfy the skill and qualification requirements under the visa program. Qualifications are to be assessed by VETASSESS. For many of the occupations it may be possible to substitute a formal education for a minimum number of years of employment experience in the nominated occupation. This would depend on the occupation and the individual circumstances of the foreign worker.
Concessions regarding salary
Most Australian working visas require that the foreign worker is paid a minimum amount referred to as the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). This is currently set at $53,900 per annum. Under HILA, the foreign worker could be paid a reduced amount of 90 per cent of TSMIT – as long as that amount is the same as what would be paid to an equivalent Australian worker.
Concessions regarding age
For many Australian visas the foreign worker must be under 45 years of age at the time they lodge their visa application. Under the HILA, there is a concession which allows an employer to sponsor a foreign worker for either a SESR or ENS if the foreign worker is under 50 years of age at the time they lodge their visa application.
Concessions regarding English language
Any applicant for an Australian working visa must meet a minimum English language score which, amongst other reasons, differs depending on the type of visa. Generally, applicants must meet an overall minimum test score plus attain a minimum score in each test component (e.g., reading or speaking). The HILA contains possible concessions which mean that the minimum English test scores are slightly less difficult for foreign workers who would be employed under the HILA.
The intention of the HILA is to make it easier to hire foreign workers to fill gaps in the labour market in the horticulture industry. Employers in this particular industry can have some difficulty in finding suitable workers so utilising the HILA could be greatly beneficial for them.
We recommend that any employers seeking to sponsor foreign workers through a labour agreement first seek advice or assistance from a Registered Migration Agent.
The template, as well as more information about the HILA (and other labour agreements) can be found at the Department of Home Affairs’ website here.
Authors: Rebecca Macmillan & Chloe Ling
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.