Raspberries, Westerway Raspberry Farm

COVID-19 information for harvest workers

The Tasmanian Government has established a single website where businesses can find the latest information, updates and regulations changes. This website can be found at www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au.

Information for growers and other business owners can be found at https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/business-and-employees.

Horticulture an “Essential Service”

The Commonwealth has declared all forms of agriculture to be essential service, including horticulture. This classification is expected to last for the duration of the current Coronavirus situation. This means:

  • Access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics will not be affected by many of the measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread
  • State-imposed border shutdowns will not affect agricultural supply chains
  • The trucks carrying food and produce will get through to the shops
  • Feed, hay, fertilizer and other agriculture products will continue being delivered to farms

A copy of the announcement can be accessed at https://minister.awe.gov.au/littleproud/media-releases/agriculture-jobs-essential.

Worker safety and COVID-19

The Tasmanian Government have compiled a list of information which employers should provide to all employees and contract staff. Key information to share includes:

  • How to stay informed and the best sources of information (Australian Government and Tasmanian Government Department of Health websites)
  • How to protect yourself and others
  • What to do if you have travelled interstate and overseas in the previous 14 days
  • The employer’s expectations regarding follow instructions provided by Public Health Services
  • What social distancing measures must be adhered to.

Please request this information from your employer if you have not already received it.

Horticultural workers not required to leave Tasmania

Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Wednesday that non-essential holiday makers and other non-residents would be asked to leave Tasmania by 1 April 2020 (originally 29 March 2020). We have heard from growers that remaining seasonal workers doing fruit picking work are unsure whether this means they are now required to leave Tasmania by this date.

Key information:

  • Backpackers working in agricultural sector are classified “essential workers” by both the State and Commonwealth governments.
  • Backpackers working in the agricultural sector who are already in Tasmania are under no obligation to leave the state, and can continue working within the Tasmanian agriculture sector industry.
  • Agricultural workers are permitted to cross state boundaries as part of moving to another agricultural position. However, workers may be denied movement across state boundaries if they cannot demonstrate that they are going to a new place of employment.

Transport between accommodation and workplace

A number of growers have requested advice on the maximum number of offsite employees sharing vehicles when travelling between the workplace and place(s) of residence. At this stage, guidance from the Tasmanian government is:

“For workers sharing transport, travelling to a place of work, there is not a restriction on the number of people per vehicle, other than what the passenger limit specific to that vehicle.”

Nonetheless wherever practicable, consideration could be given to applying the guidelines of no more than two people congregating together, and apply similar practices to the taxi and ride share industries of passengers sitting in the back.

Onsite accommodation for seasonal workers

A number of growers are asking seasonal workers to make use of onsite accommodation options to reduce workers moving between work and accommodation, and mitigate some risks of exposure and introduction into the work environment.

If onsite accommodation is being provided to seasonal workers, it has been suggested that employers co-locate employees from the same work teams and limit physical interactions between work teams where feasible. Safe Work Australia also encourage staggering meal breaks and start times to reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at any given time.

More information on this can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/preparing-workplaces-covid-19/agriculture-minimising-risk-covid-19.

Offsite accommodation for seasonal workers

The Tasmanian government has issued restrictions on access to temporary accommodation, including hotels, motels, hostels, boarding houses, caravan parks, campsites, camping areas, bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs and holiday home rentals. These restrictions currently limit the types of persons who can secure lodging or reside in temporary accommodation. This information can be found at https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/travellers-and-visitors/accommodation.

As “essential workers”, horticultural seasonal workers are permitted to book temporary accommodation if this is for employment reasons. This means that seasonal workers can continue to use existing temporary accommodation lodgings, or move to new lodgings if they are moving between employment locations if they have no other accommodation options.