Navigating Unfairness: The exclusion of temporary migrants from the Fair Entitlement Guarantee

The Fair Entitlement Guarantee (FEG) scheme provides workers who lose their job due to liquidation or employer bankruptcy with financial assistance to recover some unpaid employment entitlements, including unpaid wages, annual leave, long service leave, payment in lieu of notice, and redundancy pay. Temporary migrants are not covered by the FEG, despite paying taxes and contributing to Government revenue, only Australian Citizens, permanent residents, or New Zealand citizens (holders of a Special Category visa) are able to claim the benefit.

The Migrant Workers’ Taskforce recommended extending the FEG to temporary migrants, a recommendation that was accepted by the Government, acknowledging that abiding taxpayers should be equally protected by the scheme. However, to date, no legislative changes have been implemented, which has intensified calls from different stakeholders to reform the FEG and expand its coverage to include temporary migrants.

The Government has publicly recognised that there is a ‘crisis of exploitation’ afflicting migrant workers in Australia. The exclusion of temporary migrant workers from the FEG only perpetuates a culture of migrant worker exploitation, negating that temporary migrants are equally deserving of protection under Australian law. It also incentives unscrupulous employers to engage in illegal phoenix activity. Extension of the FEG program to temporary migrant workers is a fundamental step to reducing migrant worker exploitation.