Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on Queensland's agricultural workforce
Coronavirus (COVID-19) may impact your ability to source harvesting and production workers. Significant disruption to seasonal worker numbers could occur in various regions.
Anticipate and plan for significant reductions across all levels of your workforce.
Worker availability issues may arise in:
- working holidaymakers (i.e. backpackers)
- overseas student workers
- seasonal worker programme
- pacific labour mobility scheme
- local seasonal workers
- core permanent ongoing staff
- other business along the supply chain.
Sourcing workers when normal channels don't work
Many businesses have relied on a regular pattern of seasonal workers and a stable, permanent workforce for many seasons. You may not have considered or be aware of alternative ways of recruiting.
Current options for recruiting workers include:
- using the free Harvest Trail online facility
- lodging vacancies directly onto jobsearch.gov.au or registering your business on the jobactive website to post your positions for free
- contacting your local jobactive providers
- advertising on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, and/or traditional, local methods like newspapers, community bulletin boards or roadside signs
- contacting a licensed Labour Hire service provider
- encouraging your industry representative body/organisation to promote the need for workers (e.g. 'Pick Local' campaign)
Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program
Queensland has opted into the Australian Government's recommencement of the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme to address the expected labour shortage in agribusiness, particularly through the summer harvest period.
Our main focus for meeting labour shortages is to attract and train Queenslanders. However, workforce shortages are still expected in this sector.
Agribusinesses may be able to seek an overseas workforce to fill some harvesting, field labour and processing roles. Application and approval processes are managed by the Australian Government, and only approved employers can participate in the schemes.
Quarantine arrangements will apply to any workers entering the state to protect the current labour force and Queensland residents. The number of workers able to enter will be limited by Queensland's quarantine capacity.
All quarantine arrangements must be approved by the Queensland Chief Health Officer.
Guaranteeing available workers are suitable for my business
To enable available workers to be suitable for your business, ensure induction processes, role descriptions and work procedures are in place and current (including procedures to mitigate spreading of coronavirus (COVID-19)).
Ensure suppliers of labour (e.g. Labour Hire, jobactive) understand your requirements and are selective in who they send to you (e.g. do you need heavy lifting capacity or intermittent work hours?).
Government and industry working together
Government and industry are working together and meeting regularly to identify current and emerging issues resulting from actions to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the community and developing strategies aimed at addressing these.
The Queensland Government already has several agriculture workforce officers in place across Queensland called the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network. These officers can provide free advice on workforce services and initiatives to all Queensland agribusinesses, regardless of commodity or organisation membership.
If you are an employer in agriculture in Queensland and need additional advice on these services, you can contact your local agriculture workforce officer.
Knowledge is key
We will be working closely with other government agencies to ensure you have access to relevant and accurate information.
This Business Queensland website provides essential COVID-19 information, and also includes information on business support and advice, industry support, financial assistance, managing staff and health advice.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has advice to assist you to understand your fair work obligations.
Be aware of COVID health and safety procedures by reviewing Workplace Health and Safety and WorkCover Queensland information, including:
- Find out about employing seasonal workers during COVID-19.
- Last reviewed: 22 Sep 2020
- Last updated: 22 Sep 2020