Recent 457 reforms have led to increasing uncertainty and confusion among migration agents and businesses, specially with respect to Training Benchmark – B.
One of the recent legislative instruments though was intended to make policy settings clear, added to the confusion as the PAM: Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) – sponsorships had a few unclear instructions.
As a responsible RMA and a CPD Presenter in the industry, I wish to clarify on some of the concerns raised by our colleagues, including whether expenditure on online training/e-learning can be considered as an applicable expenditure for the purpose of meeting Training Benchmark – B.
The migration instrument, IMMI 17/045: Specification of Training Benchmarks and Training Requirements lists the requirements to meet the required training benchmarks to be eligible for sponsorship under the subclass 457 visa program.
According to the instrument:
Applicable expenditure that can count towards Training Benchmark B includes:
- payments for Australian employees to undertake a formal course of study, including any reasonable and necessary associated costs (e.g. costs of travelling to the training venue or access an online training programme);
- payments to RTOs to deliver face-to-face training to Australian employees that will contribute to an Australian Qualifications Framework qualification;
- purchase of an eLearning platform or standalone training software;
- payments to cover the salary of Australian employees:
- engaged by the business as apprentices or trainees under a formal training contract, or
- have completed an undergraduate or higher degree in a university within the last 2 years, and
- are participating in a formal, structured graduate program for up to 2 years, or completing a professional year following their graduation;
- the salary of a person whose sole role is to provide training to Australian employees;
- expenditure to attend conferences for continuing professional development.
Inapplicable expenditure that cannot count towards this benchmark includes:
- on the job training that is not otherwise identified above as applicable expenditure for Training Benchmark B;
- training that is not relevant to the industry in which the business operates;
- training undertaken by persons who are principals in the business or their family members;
- training that has a very low skill level having regard to the characteristics and size of the business;
- induction training;
- staff salaries apportioned to time spent undertaking online or other training courses;
- purchase of software for use in normal duties;
- membership fees;
- purchase of books, journals or magazine subscriptions;
- attending conferences for purposes other than continuing professional development; and
- hiring a booth at a trades show, conference or expo.
I wish to clarify that staff salaries apportioned to time spent undertaking online or other training courses cannot be counted towards applicable expenditure, however, expenses incurred on online training (or e-learning) courses can still be counted as applicable expenditure towards Training benchmark – B.
Regulation 5.19 (Approval of nominated positions (employer nomination)) makes it clear that costs associated with an employee participating in or accessing an online training course may be counted towards expenditure on training, however, wages covering the employee/s’ time to attend/complete an online training course cannot be counted.
The confusion is due to explanation in PAM: Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) – sponsorships which states that expenditure that cannot count towards this benchmark includes costs associated with staff completing online training courses, which actually means the costs associated such as salaries or wages paid during the online training or e-learning. One of the DIBP Case Officers wrote to an RMA saying that E-learning cannot be counted towards TB-B expenditure after 1st of July, and I advised the RMA to write back to the Case Officer:
- that Case Officer’s understanding on the changes was not clear,
- and ask the Officer to provide any evidence towards that.
Though this may have sorted the matter for the RMA but I thought there was need to discuss this issue for other RMAs as well.
In summary, E-learning is still a valid option for Training Benchmark B. In fact, there have not been any significant changes which would affect meeting requirements for TB-A or TB-B.
I hope this helps clarifying major confusions around TB-B. Please do not hesitate to call me should you have any other doubts about training benchmarks or sc457 in general.