Frequently Asked Questions for Employers

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Seasonal Worker Programme for potential and current approved employers.

What is an Approved Employer?

An Approved Employer is an Australian Entity that:

  • Has had an application assessed and approved by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (formerly Department of Jobs and Small Business) and has entered into a contract with the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business called a Deed of Agreement; and
  • Has applied for and been granted approval as a Temporary Activities Sponsor by the Department of Home Affairs.

An employer cannot recruit or commence recruitment under the Seasonal Worker Programme until they have met all of the above conditions and submitted a recruitment plan that has been approved by the Department of Employment.

Who is eligible to apply to become an approved employer?

To become an Approved Employer, an Entity must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business that it:

  1. Is an eligible business registered and operating in Australia in a sound financial position and has an ABN;
  2. Is an ‘Organisation’ for the purposes of the Migration Regulations 1994;
  3. Has good immigration practices and a history of compliance with immigration legislation
  4. Has a history of compliance with Australian workplace relations, work health and safety legislation, and other relevant laws.
  5. Understands and will comply with the programme requirements.

Further information on the eligibility criteria can be found via Process to become an Approved Employer.

How do I apply to become an approved employer?

You must first complete and submit an application form and send it through to seasonalworker@employment.gov.au. Please note the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business will only correspond with the nominated contact person who must be a relevant person of the Entity applying; external parties cannot represent the Entity.

What are my responsibilities as an approved employer?

Before seeking access to seasonal workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme, approved employers must first try to recruit local job seekers by undertaking labour market testing. The Seasonal Worker Programme has an Australian job seeker first approach, and employers must advertise vacancies and give first preference to any suitable Australian job seekers before filling the vacancies with seasonal workers.

As the employer of seasonal workers, approved employers are responsible for organising flights, transport and accommodation for workers, pastoral care, ensuring seasonal workers have access to a minimum average of 30 hours of work per week and monitoring the seasonal workers’ wellbeing. Approved employers also have reporting obligations to the Australian Government, such as providing evidence that workers have been employed and paid in accordance with the programme and Australian workplace entitlements.

Further information on the responsibilities of approved employers can be found in the Approved Employers Factsheet.

How many workers can I have for my first placement?

New approved employers joining the Seasonal Worker Programme are generally approved to recruit only a small number of seasonal workers for their first placement (known as a recruitment cap). This provides new approved employers the opportunity to adjust to their obligations and responsibilities under the programme whilst working with a manageable number of seasonal workers in their first placement.

The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business monitors approved employers during each placement to ensure compliance with programme requirements. An approved employer’s recruitment cap will be reviewed at the end of the placement taking into account the Department’s monitoring and changes made where appropriate.

How long is the process to become an approved employer?

The process usually takes between three to four months to complete. This timeframe is indicative only. In some cases the process may take longer due to the need for the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business to consult with a number of other agencies when performing relevant checks.

To ensure the timely processing of an application, Entities are encouraged to provide all requested information and to respond to questions fully and truthfully at the time of their submission.

What is the process after I have submitted an application form to become an approved employer?

The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business will assess your application form, and if deemed successful, applicants will be sent a contract with the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business called a Deed of Agreement. The Deed of Agreement needs to be signed by an appropriate representative of the entity and returned to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business to be executed.

Entities also need to apply and be approved as a Temporary Activities Sponsor through the Department of Home Affairs. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply to become a Temporary Activities Sponsor, visit the Department of Home Affairs website. Before seasonal workers can be recruited under SWP approved employers are required to submit a Recruitment Plan to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business for approval.

Please follow the link to view a copy of the Deed of Agreement (DoA).

If I am deemed unsuccessful during the application process, can I re-submit another application form?

An Entity may only apply for Approved Employer status twice in any 12 month period from the date of submitting their first application. An Entity must complete the process to become an approved employer within 12 months from the date of application. 

What do I do if I am unable to provide seasonal workers enough work?

Approved employers are required to report to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business as soon as they become aware that they are not able to meet their obligation to provide seasonal workers with a minimum average of 30 hours of work per week. Approved employers are required to source appropriate additional work to ensure their obligations to seasonal workers are met. Please note that approved employers are required to seek approval from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business when sourcing additional work and changing arrangements for seasonal workers.

Can I send seasonal workers home early if I am unable to provide them with enough work?

Under the Deed of Agreement, it is your obligation as an approved employer to ensure that seasonal workers are provided with the amount of work as specified in the letter of offer. The recruitment plan requires approved employers to have a contingency plan in the event that there is not enough work under the original arrangement.

What additional measures were introduced from 1 July 2018?

  • streamlining the application process
  • introduction of a multi-year, multi-entry visa for seasonal workers
  • investigating ways to help employers lodge information online
  • piloting ways to lower upfront costs for employers
  • removing the requirement for employers to organise training for seasonal workers while in Australia from 1 July 2018
  • piloting a 24/7 information line for seasonal workers that will complement the pastoral care provided by approved employers
  • increased promotion to employers in eligible industries and their industry associations
  • communication and engagement with employers in broader agriculture industries eligible for, but not currently accessing the programme
  • piloting ways to help seasonal workers access their superannuation once they have left Australia.

More information on the new measures can be found on the Seasonal Worker Programme Fact Sheet New Measures 2017 page.

What new measures were introduced from 5 November 2018?

On 5 November 2018 the Prime Minister, The Hon Scott Morrison MP, announced changes to the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). There are three key changes aimed at reducing barriers to higher take up and better utilisation of the SWP, these are:

  • Labour Market Testing will remain valid for a period of six months;
  • Seasonal workers from all countries will be able to work for a period of up to nine months; and
  • Out of pocket costs for Approved Employers (i.e. cost towards workers’ airfares) will reduced from $500 to $300

Please refer to the Media Release for further information.