You’re An Essential Worker – Why?
The Australian government considers farmworkers to be ‘essential workers’ and therefore have special work privileges. Agriculture and farm work is critical to all Australians and those countries that Australian producers export to.
Agriculture is Primary Production and therefore a primary need for everyone. The Australian Agricultural Industry supplies all our basic needs – food, fibre, textiles and energy etc. These basic needs are imperative at any time and especially during COVID-19.
Each state must follow the national guidelines, however, each state can also request extra measures be taken by farmworkers and their employers.
Both the federal and state government can change these regulations to suit the current situation, often from month to month. For this reason, it is crucial to review government websites before travelling anywhere in Australia.
Each Australian state may from time to time, close their borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Given that farm work is considered to be essential, border crossing may be allowable under certain circumstances. Requirements may change if you fly into an airport or drive across a border in a car, and from which State or region you originated. You need to be very aware if you are travelling from or through a ‘COVID-19 hotspot’.
If you wish to cross a border for farm work, it is best to check the state government’s website to review current requirements (links below).
Seasonal Worker – Definition
The government defines a farmworker as a ‘seasonal worker’. A seasonal worker can be an Australian resident or a visa holder with work rights.
Border Crossing Documentation
Documentation requirements and processes change often. You may be required to have a ‘Letter of Offer’ from a prospective employer to provide evidence of employment.
Get your ‘Letter of Offer’ organised with your new employer on the FarmReady Hub Dashboard.
What To Expect On-Farm During COVID-19
Farms must follow the same rules as any business in Australia. In some instances, there may be additional rules pending the circumstances. Most Australian farms who produce food are already following strict food safety and quality assurance guidelines, which is beneficial to hindering the spread of COVID-19. The state government requires most agricultural enterprises to have a COVID-19 Management Plan in place. Which sets out strict guidelines that the employer and each worker must follow. Examples of what to expect are:
- Before starting a new farm job, sign a declaration stating that you do not have COVID-19 nor have you been in contact with anyone infected.
- Upon arrival to work and throughout each day, you may be required to wash and sanitise your hands.
- You may be required to sign-in every morning to confirm you do not feel sick.
- You will be required to advise your employer immediately if you feel sick at work. It is best not to come to work when you are unwell, even if you suspect it isn’t COVID-19.
- You will undergo extra training within the workplace on how they manage COVID-19 and any changes the government may make to workplace requirements from time to time.
Daily health checks at work – when you are unwell
It is common practice for an employer to ask you about your health status every morning you start work. If you are unwell, you may be refused entry into the workplace or quarantined. In this instance, you will be required to visit your doctor and will not be allowed to return to work until you have been cleared for work by your doctor.
If you have cold and flu-like symptoms, do not go to work. Stay home and make a medical appointment as soon as possible.