Migrant workers tip off workplaces in own language

01 August, 2017 by
Annabelle Cloros

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making it easier for migrant workers to report workplace concerns to the agency by launching its Anonymous Report function in 16 languages other than English.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the new tool was developed to overcome some of the barriers that migrant workers face when dealing with workplace issues.

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“Factors such as limited English skills, cultural barriers and a lack of awareness of workplace rights mean that migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace,” says James.

“These same factors also make it difficult for migrant workers to know where or how to seek help.

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“We have also commissioned research showing that when it comes to international students in the Australian workplace, 60 per cent believe that if they report a workplace issue to their employer the situation will either remain the same or get worse.

“My agency is aiming to break down these barriers and make it as easy as possible for migrant workers to report their concerns to us. Being able to make an anonymous report in languages other than English is a key step in enabling migrant workers to readily engage with the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

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The Fair Work Ombudsman originally launched the Anonymous Report function in May 2016 to allow the community to report potential workplace breaches, in recognition that some employees are reluctant to complain about workplace issues.

“Since the launch of the Anonymous Report function, the Fair Work Ombudsman has received more than 10,000 tipoffs with 15 percent of these coming from visa holders,” says James.

“To make it easier for people from a non-English speaking background, we have now launched this tool in 16 languages other than English, including Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Spanish.

“Now, migrant workers can tell us their concerns, in their own language, without being identified.”

High-profile inquiries by the Fair Work Ombudsman into matters such as 7-11, Woolworths trolley collectors and 4- and 5-star hotel cleaners highlight the prevalence of often deliberate and systematic exploitation of migrant workers.

Intelligence gathered via the anonymous report tool enables the agency to target its compliance and education activities.

“Improving the employment experience of migrant workers in Australia is a priority for my agency,” says James.

“We understand it can be hard to speak up if you are facing issues at work, but we hope that our new translated Anonymous Report function will encourage more migrant workers to do so.”

The Anonymous Report tool can be accessed here.

The tool is available in the following languages:

Chinese Simplified

Chinese Traditional

Korean

Hindi

Arabic

French

German

Italian

Japanese

Spanish

Vietnamese

Indonesian

Filipino

Portuguese

Thai

Nepali.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also knows that visa holders working in Australia may be reluctant to seek assistance if they think that doing so will lead to adverse consequences, such as damaging future job prospects or cancellation of their visa.

“I would like to reassure visa holders that in line with an agreement between my agency and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled,” says James.