Hiring a seasonal workforce is standard for anyone in the viticulture and horticulture industries. Many of these workers follow the seasonal trail of fruit, vegetable and other crop picking. As a result of this the horticulture and viticulture industries employ many travellers, often foreign.
It is important to remember that under Australian law, every worker from overseas must have a valid Australian visa with work rights. Employers are responsible for checking all workers’ rights in Australia, even if they have been employed via an agency. Anyone who knowingly allows a person to work illegally is committing an offence under the Migration Act 1958.
People found working without a valid visa can be removed from the workplace immediately, so checking work entitlements makes good business sense. Even more importantly the employer, can also be fined if found to have knowingly or recklessly allowed an illegal worker to work.
Check their visa status
Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) allows you to check the work entitlements of all prospective workers. It is important to check this information before employment commences. This online service is available to all employers and labour hire companies. If you would like assistance with this process, we can help.
Check the appropriate wage level
All seasonal workers with permission to work in Australia are entitled to the same pay, work conditions and superannuation benefits as Australian residents and citizens. This means that they are paid in accordance with the applicable Award for your industry (Wine Industry Award 2010), receive benefits such as superannuation and other entitlements in line with the 10 National Employment Standards.
If employing directly ensue you have compliant Employment Contracts and HR Policies
An employment contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties, the employer and the employee, and is designed to give both parties security and protection. Compliant employment contracts provide the employer with the security that the employee is fully aware of their obligations and has agreed to comply with the stated terms.
Also, employees need to have a clear, shared understanding of what is (and is not) acceptable behaviour. Setting clear and specific standards in the form of HR policies and procedures establishes a framework for identifying and addressing violations.
Labour hire – what growers need to know
Our experience of working with employers and employees in these industries has shown there is often:
Contracting out labour for a very low price may result in employees throughout the supply chain missing out on basic rights like minimum wages, penalties, loadings, overtime, allowances and leave.
It may also mean the contractor is engaging in what is known as “sham contracting” arrangements to avoid their legal responsibilities as an employer, in paying these minimum requirements. This is an illegal practice.
Why should growers care about what happens in their supply chain?
Choosing the contractor who offers the lowest price without looking more closely and asking questions about how they can offer such low prices can:
If using a labour hire company it is important you ask the following questions:
Make sure you have a written contract with the labour hire contractor outlining what is expected of the contractor, and that they will employ seasonal workers in line with Australian workplace laws.
Growers should be concerned if someone offers to provide them with labour for less than the minimum award rate of $23.18 per hour for an adult casual worker.
Don’t forget no matter how you hire your staff it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure all Australian laws and obligations are followed.
If you need any assistance with hiring of seasonal staff or appropriate contracts required, we would be happy to provide any assistance or advice required.
At myhronline we provide HR support without the hassle – specialising in small to medium sized buinsesses. Our online shop offers easy access to a range of HR forms, documents, letters and templates for whatever your business needs. Downloading is simple and for all members of Australian Vignerons, we offer a 15% discount on all documents, HR support and advice. Simply contact Australian Vignerons for the promo code.
For HR support without the hassle visit www.myhronline.com.au or to speak directly to our HR consultant call 1300 123 081.