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Employing seasonal workers in agribusiness and commercial fisheries—COVID-19

The Queensland Government has introduced new measures to help agribusiness and commercial fisheries access seasonal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes ensure seasonal work can continue so Queensland's food supplies are secure while meeting coronavirus (COVID-19) public health directions.

Queensland agribusiness and commercial fisheries rely on seasonal workers throughout the year to plant, harvest and carry out maintenance. 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, often 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
  • an Australian resident seeking seasonal work either locally or across the country.

Before workers can travel, you must confirm their work and they must have accommodation. Workers have been advised not to visit farms to request work.

Read more below about entry and quarantine requirements for your workers, and your requirement, as an employer of seasonal workers, to submit a workplace health management plan.

Entry requirements for workers from outside Queensland

If you are employing workers from interstate, they cannot enter Queensland unless you have confirmed their work and they have accommodation in Queensland. They must apply for a Queensland entry pass and provide evidence of:

  • places of work and accommodation for the previous 14 days
  • proof of work and accommodation (including self-quarantine accommodation if relevant) in Queensland. For example, they will need an email from you as their new employer and also from their accommodation provider.

You can provide accommodation on your farm (including self-quarantine accommodation if relevant) or assist in finding accommodation in caravan parks, hostels, backpacker facilities and hotels close by.

Workers without evidence of employment and accommodation will not be allowed to enter Queensland.

Workers who have been in a COVID-19 hotspot in the past 14 days will also need to comply with the following additional requirements.

Quarantine requirements for workers from outside Queensland

If workers in your agribusiness or commercial fishing operation are entering Queensland and they have been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days, they must self-quarantine at their own expense for 14 days before commencing work.

They can self-quarantine before entering Queensland, as long as they can provide evidence of self-quarantine from an interstate health authority at the border.

They can also self-quarantine immediately after entering Queensland. They must have already organised their self-quarantine accommodation and provide details at the border.

Self-quarantine means they must stay in their hotel room or provided accommodation, and not go to public places or accept visitors even if they do not feel sick.

Find more information about self-quarantine requirements.

Your responsibilities as an employer

If you are employing seasonal workers from outside Queensland, or any workers who are not staying in their permanent residence, you must have a workplace health management plan.

A workplace health management plan is in addition to your existing workplace health and safety procedures. The plan must:

  • describe the health screening steps you will implement for employees—you are required to undertake 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 covid.plans@health.qld.gov.au.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has provided record-keeping templates for workplace health management plans to assist your agribusinesses or commercial fishing and processing business to maintain records of activities.

You must have a record of your employee's work history and accommodation details for the 14 days before commencing work with you (including self-quarantine compliance if relevant).

Queensland Government officers will be undertaking audits of businesses who employ temporary visa holders and seasonal workers to confirm compliance with public health directions.

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 are employing only Queensland residents who are working near their home and staying in their permanent residence, you are not required but are encouraged to have a workplace health management plan. Your workplace must comply with public health directions and social distancing requirements.

Providing accommodation and transport for temporary visa holders and seasonal workers

Accommodation providers may continue to operate, as long as social distancing is observed.

Accommodation providers are required to have a health management plan (DOC, 238KB) unless operating only for permanent residents, health and community services or educational providers. An accommodation provider includes:

  • hostels
  • backpackers
  • bed and breakfasts
  • boarding houses
  • caravan and camping parks.

Industry guidelines (PDF, 249KB) outline how your health management plan must include the measures in place for your facility to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among guests and the community. Facilities should manage guests to allow access to areas on the basis of 1 person per 4 square metres.

Your health management plan may allow social distancing requirements to be modified provided guests are managed in 'household units' of no more than 4 people.

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 guests 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 $66,672.50 for corporations. The enforcement officer can issue on-the-spot fines of $1,334.50 for individuals or $6,672.50 for corporations.

For more information read the requirements for accommodation providers and about the best places for workers to look for accommodation in Queensland.

Transport providers of private workforce transportation services to agribusinesses, agribusiness labour hire companies and seasonal worker accommodation providers, must have a health management plan to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among workers and the community. Read more information on requirements for transport providers.

Workers moving between employers

When moving between farms for seasonal jobs, workers are advised not to travel until they have organised work and accommodation. Workers are not allowed 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.

Provide your seasonal workers with a letter and/or email stating their employment to enable them to travel, especially if they need to relocate or travel into Queensland from interstate.

Your obligations

We all have a general obligation to help keep ourselves, neighbours and the community as safe as possible from coronavirus (COVID-19). If you wish to employ seasonal workers, you must follow Queensland's public health directions for COVID-19.

Promote the latest advice from Queensland Health to your employees and contractors to help prevent the virus spreading.

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