Another tip for workers
It’s currently a good time to be looking for some short-term farm work, with lots of jobs available for picking and packing fruit and vegetables. But before you accept a job offer and head off to the country to make a bit of money and hopefully have a bit of fun, DO SOME HOMEWORK so that you fully understand what will be expected of you and your employer.
Understand the Job
Harvesting of fruit and vegetables can involve working individually, in pairs or teams. You will need to be physically fit as the job can involve climbing ladders, standing, kneeling, laying or sitting while moving through the crop. The work can be repetitious and tiring. Most harvesting jobs are done outdoors with little or no protection from the weather. Many jobs are in locations where extremely high temperatures are common.
Take the time to understand what crop you will be working on, or the farm you will be working for. Lots of information is available on-line, including videos of people picking and packing particular crops.
Find out what clothing you will need for the job. If you can find this out before you start it will give you time to shop around and not pay excessive amounts because you have to buy clothes quickly. Some jobs may need gumboots or wet weather gear, while others may need sun protection.
To work in Australia you will require an Australian Tax File Number (TFN) and you will be required to pay income tax. You may be entitled to a refund of all or some of the tax when you leave Australia or at the end of the financial year (30th June) when you lodge your tax return.
If you are visiting Australia and you wish to work you will require a current visa with work rights. Most employers now regularly check so that they do not commit an offence by employing illegal workers.
Often work is located in remote areas and having your own transport will assist you to access these vacancies. Although you can often get public transport to a major town near to where the work is located, there is generally no public transport to individual farms or businesses, so a car is very handy to get to and from work on a daily basis.
It goes without saying that only people with a current, suitable licence can drive vehicles in Australia, and if you are a visa holder you need to check if you can drive on your home country license as the requirements in different states can vary. One thing that is common to all states is that all occupants of the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.
Workers with caravans or tents may be able to camp on some farms, which makes it easy to get to work each day and will probably save you some money. There are also a few farms that provide on-site accommodation which may range from dongas, to caravans or purpose built units. However the majority of jobs will require you to sort out your own accommodation and there are a number of options that might be suitable, ranging from commercial caravan parks, to hostels and motels.
In many locations it is illegal to camp outside a designated camping area. Camping in carparks, at a beach or a road side stop could result in you being fined. This includes sleeping in your car. Check with the local visitor information centre before camping anywhere other than a caravan park.
Pay Rates and Conditions
Pay rates may vary from crop to crop and will generally be one of two types based on The Horticulture Award:
- Casual hourly rate:
• no guarantee of set hours per day or week
• no sick or annual leave
• overtime payable in some circumstances
• current rate $24.80/hour
- Piecework paid on a per unit picked or packed basis:
• no guaranteed minimum hourly rate
• an average competent worker should be able to make 15% above the casual hourly rate
• A piecework agreement signed by the worker and employer must be agreed for all piecework
It is a requirement of law that all workers are covered by insurance for workplace injury. This insurance is paid by your employer, which may be the farm where you work, or a labour hire company.
Superannuation is a form of savings where money is set aside by your employer and invested for your retirement. Your employer may be required to pay superannuation deductions which go into an account which can be accessed when you retire, or leave the country for visa workers.
All workers should receive a payslip that documents all payments and deductions.
Further information on pay and conditions can be found at www.fairwork.gov.au
It would be surprising if anyone was not aware of the impacts of COVID-19 throughout the world. Although Australia has so far managed the pandemic very well, there are still border restrictions between some states, and social distancing protocols in place that may impact certain farm jobs. Most farms are required to have a COVID safe plan to ensure workers aren’t exposed to the risk of exposure to the virus while at work.
Harvest Trail Information Service can help
There are currently many picking and packing jobs available all around Australia. If you are thinking of undertaking some of this work, the best advice is to call the Harvest Trail Information Service (HTIS) on 1800 062 332 8am-8pm (Mon-Fri).
The HTIS can help with finding suitable jobs or providing information on relocation assistance, pay travel and accommodation.