A new temporary labour agreement specifically for hotels and accommodation providers is expected to help combat the industry’s critical skills shortage.  

Under the agreement – which was the result of discussions between industry associations including Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Department of Home Affairs – approved businesses can sponsor skilled overseas workers when there is “a demonstrated need” that cannot be met in the domestic labour market and where standard temporary or permanent visa programs are not available.

“It’s a formal agreement between the Australian Government and the employer, which allows the recruitment of overseas workers in occupations which are not eligible for the standard migration programmes,” Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO, Michael Johnson, told HM.

“Whilst not a silver bullet, it is a great step forward for our industry to have its own agreement which we trust will be well utilised.”

The most significant benefit of the new agreement is that workers in select key occupations, including in in-house food service, will have a pathway to permanent residency.

This includes overseas workers who have held a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa for at least three years as a Café or Restaurant Manager; Hotel or Motel Manager; Hotel Service Manager; Accommodation and Hospitality Manager; Cook; Chef or Pastry Cook.

Johnson believes that providing a pathway to permanent residency for these overseas workers gives Australia a competitive edge.

“It means that when you spend the money to get someone here from overseas, they’ve got the opportunity to stay,” he said.

“That makes your offer more competitive when compared to some of the other locations they could go to.”

The agreement is designed to offer temporary support to aid industry recovery from COVID-19 and will be reviewed after 12 months.

Businesses can apply for the five-year agreement to allow visas to be granted under the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa or the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (Provisional) visa.

TAA first proposed a labour agreement with government over two years ago – prior to the pandemic – but it was sidelined when COVID-19 brought the industry to a grinding halt. Last year, a working group including TAA decided to engage government on the issue once again.

“In the meantime, TAA and the Australian Hotels Association have worked on a number of submissions to government with regards to temporary migration and migration, both with the select committee and with the Senate committee,” Johnson said.

“We presented to government the needs of our industry and how critical the labour crisis and shortages was, and I think that certainly assisted our submission.”

The labour agreement also enables regionally-based workers who have held a SESR visa for at least three years in any of the above occupations to access permanent residency, while an age concession allows workers to be under 55 years old when they apply for an ENS/SESR visas for the following four occupations: Café and Restaurant Manager, Hotel or Motel Manager, Accommodation and Hospitality Manager, and Hotel Service Manager.

Johnson said businesses of all sizes can apply.

“Effectively every employer has the capability of applying for this – it could be a major hotel chain or a small hotel or motel in a regional location with only four or five staff – it covers the largest to the smallest employer

Membership of an industry body or association should be declared when completing the application form as this will be given consideration by the Department.

“If you can show that you’re a member of Tourism Accommodation Australia, the Australian Hotels Association, or the Accommodation Association, then your application will be given due consideration,” Johnson said.

The Department of Home Affairs states that standard skilled visa requirements will apply for labour market testing, English, work experience and salary.