Employing workers in agribusiness and commercial fisheries during COVID-19
The Queensland Government is helping agriculture, commercial fishing and processing businesses safely manage workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure work can continue so Queensland's food supplies are secure while meeting COVID-19 public health directions.
Your responsibilities as an employer
All businesses have responsibilities under workplace health and safety legislation to provide a safe workplace for their employees, including minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission among workers and the community.
The key things that employers must do to manage exposure to COVID-19 include:
- maintaining good hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace
- implementing physical distancing—keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart
- using personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately, where necessary.
Find out more about managing and preventing transmission of COVID-19 at your worksite and in the community.
Requirements when employing seasonal workers
Employers in the agribusiness and fisheries industry may hire seasonal workers needing to travel into and within Queensland to undertake work. A seasonal worker is a person who travels to, or within, Queensland for work as it becomes available, requiring them to relocate and stay in temporary accommodation. A seasonal worker can be:
- a person coming from overseas to travel and work temporarily in Australia (for example, a backpacker or visa holder)
- an Australian resident seeking seasonal work either locally or across the country.
Seasonal workers can be skilled or unskilled and may be needed to:
- pick fruit and vegetables
- work in packing sheds, canneries and other processing plants or factories
- prune, cut and plant crops such as sugar cane and grain
- work on sheep and cattle stations, piggeries and poultry farms.
To protect you, your workforce and Queensland, the Queensland Government has border control measures. You will need to consider these when employing seasonal workers.
If you employ seasonal workers it is mandatory to have a workplace health management plan. This includes all agribusinesses, commercial fishing and processing businesses, and agriculture labour hire companies.
A workplace health management plan must:
- describe the health screening steps you will implement for employees—you are required to undertake pre-employment screening and daily checks of your employees to determine the presence/absence of COVID-19 symptoms
- describe the steps that you will implement to:
- manage and prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among your employees and the community
- maintain health standards
- respond appropriately should an employee become unwell
- be submitted to Queensland Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have a health management plan in place that covers all COVID-19 workplace health and safety management measures, you do not need to duplicate this information in a separate workplace health and safety plan.
Record-keeping templates for workplace health management plans are available to assist you.
You must have a record of your employee's work history and accommodation details for the 14 days before commencing work with you (including quarantine compliance if relevant).
Find out more about managing and preventing transmission of COVID-19 at your worksite and in the community in the workplace health management plan template (DOC, 249KB).
If you would like an agriculture coordination officer from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to provide advice or assistance on developing a workplace health management plan, phone 13 25 23 or email email@example.com, providing details of your request.
Accommodating seasonal workers
If you accommodate seasonal workers on your property you must have a health management plan in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The accommodation facilities you provide should allow access to communal areas on the basis of:
- 1 person per 4m2 in communal areas of 200m2 or more
- 1 person per 2m2 in communal areas of less than 200m2 (up to a total of 50 people).
Your health management plan may allow social distancing requirements to be modified, provided workers are managed in 'household units' of no more than 4 people who will work, use transport, and share communal facilities together.
You're required to keep records of the locations your workers have visited and their accommodation details for the 14 days before they access your accommodation (including quarantine compliance if relevant) to assist with contact tracing if necessary.
All accommodation must be of a standard to allow for appropriate hygiene and social distancing practices.
The premises should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before workers arrive, after they leave, and as regularly as possible during their stay.
If you do not comply with the public health directions, penalties will apply: $13,345 for individuals and $66,725 for corporations. The enforcement officer can issue on-the-spot fines of $1,334.50 for individuals or $6,672.50 for corporations.
Transporting seasonal workers
If you provide transportation to your workers to, from or around the workplace you must have a health management plan in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission include:
- passengers meeting social distancing requirements by maintaining a minimum distance of 1.5 metres from each other in the vehicle
- bus, minibus or van passengers keeping at least 1 vacant seat in all directions, separating them from other passengers
- vehicles having as much fresh air circulation as possible by adjusting air conditioning or opening windows and leaving windows down between trips, wherever possible
- good hygiene measures and consistent cleaning of vehicles, paying particular attention to frequently touched surfaces.
- any unwell staff staying home.
Requirements when employing local workers
All businesses must manage the risks of COVID-19 in their workplace.
If you only employ local workers who are returning to their permanent residence after work each day, you still need to manage the risk of COVID-19, but you are not required to complete and submit a workplace health management plan to Queensland Health.
To manage the risk of COVID-19 you should however have a workplace health and safety (WHS) plan in place that explains how you intend on protecting yourself and your workers from exposure to COVID-19. A WHS plan template (PDF, 176KB) is available on the Worksafe Queensland website. All businesses must also follow social distancing requirements and any relevant Public Health Directions.
If you employ both seasonal workers and local workers and have a workplace health management plan (DOC, 249KB) in place that covers all COVID-19 WHS management measures, you do not need to duplicate this information in a separate WHS plan.
Workers seeking new employment
Workers are encouraged not to visit farms to request work and should instead register their availability at Harvest Trail. They can also phone the National Harvest Labour Information Service on 1800 062 332.
Flowchart of the employment process
We've designed a flowchart that will help you understand the process to follow when employing workers in Queensland's agriculture or commercial fishing industries.
- Phone 13 25 23 to contact an agricultural coordination officer at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries if you need assistance.
- Read the latest health information and instructions.
- Find information for temporary visa holders and seasonal workers looking for work in Queensland.
- Download the SafeFood Queensland guideline for reducing workforce impacts related to COVID-19.
- Read a case study on how DAF and industry worked together to help local agribusinesses meet their COVID-19 requirements.
- Last reviewed: 21 Sep 2020
- Last updated: 21 Sep 2020