Incentives the key to mobilising workers
It is now about 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic started to have a significant impact in Australia, with the closure of the international border on 20th March 2020. This has resulted in a substantial shortage of overseas workers. Consequently lots of resources are being directed to encourage Australian citizens and resident visa holders to pick and pack fruit and vegetable crops.
There are a range of financial assistance packages to make it more attractive for residents and visa holders to get out and pick and pack produce and it would be wise to make any prospective workers aware of these programs.
Incentives are available for work anywhere in Australia, as well as in specific states.
Ag Move – Australia wide
Formerly known as Relocation Assistance To Take Up A Job, this program is run by the Commonwealth Government and is available Australia wide. This is a great program for workers who need to move away from home to take up agricultural work as it provides financial assistance to help cover the costs of moving at least 90 minutes away from where they normally live.
Who is eligible?
The following are eligible:
- An Australian citizen or permanent resident who is 18 or older.
- Anyone with a right to work in Australia (including Working Holiday Makers and international students).
- Any individual who has moved to a regional, remote or ’harvest area’ that is at least 90 minutes from their current place of residence.
How much assistance is available?
Temporary visa holders who relocate may be eligible for up to $2,000 as follows:
What can workers use the assistance for?
Relocation assistance is flexible and can be used for a range of items, such as:
- Some employment-related expenses.
More information: AgMove or 1800 062 332
A separate Regional Accommodation and Travel Support Program applies for people who relocate to do horticulture work in WA.
Who can apply for funding?
Any person living in Australia who has work rights and has relocated more than 100 kilometres from their home address to take up employment in agriculture in regional WA can apply. They must work for at least two consecutive weeks to be eligible.
An accommodation allowance of $40 per night and a one-off travel allowance of up to:
- $150 for eligible applicants taking up employment in the Peel, South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, Mid-West and Goldfields-Esperance regions
- $350 to eligible applicants taking up employment in the Gascoyne or Pilbara regions
- $500 to eligible applicants taking up employment in the Kimberley region.
Further information: Regional accommodation and support scheme
Queensland has a new #pickqldbonus scheme which provides financial assistance for people to do horticulture work in Queensland.
Who can apply for funding?
Anyone over 16 who has the right to work in Australia can apply. There are some additional requirements, including the need to have an Australian bank account and not have worked on a farm in the previous four weeks.
Incentive payments of up to $1,500 will be paid in two instalments:
- an initial $500 after 10 days of work within a consecutive 28-day period (4 weeks)
- a second and final payment of $1,000 after 30 days of additional work within a consecutive 70-day period (10 weeks).
Employment can be with different agricultural employers, physical locations and farms.
If appropriate, AgMove relocation assistance may also be able to be claimed.
Further information: #pickqldbonus
The Victorian Government’s Seasonal Harvest Sign-on Bonus is an extra payment for jobseekers who take up a harvest job on a Victorian farm this season.
Two bonus payments over eight weeks
The Victorian Government is giving eligible workers $2,430 for eight weeks of seasonal harvest work on a Victorian horticulture farm. The bonus will be paid in two instalments:
• An initial $810, after doing 10 days of work within a 30-day period
• A further $1,620, after an additional 30 days of work within a 90-day period.
Workers must be:
• 18 years or older and have work rights in Australia
• not be employed under the Pacific Labour Scheme or Seasonal Worker Programme.
Workers can move between Victorian harvest jobs and still be eligible for the bonus and may be eligible to claim the sign-on bonus, as well as AgMove – meaning they could possibly get up to $8,500 in incentive payments.
Incentives for workers and growers can change quickly and may be subject to funding or time limits. Keep informed and make sure any workers are aware of these incentives as they might just be enough to entice them to work for you.
This article is intended to provide access to information and resources to promote an understanding of work and travel restrictions in response to COVID-19.
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