Can seasonal workers extend their stay during the COVID-19 pandemic?
On Saturday 4 April, the Australian Government announced a new visa extending the stay of critical seasonal workers to ensure the agricultural sector has the labour force it needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers will have visa conditions relaxed and be given an option to extend their stay for up to one year.
Workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme will remain connected to the respective programs and the protections these afford to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of workers is maintained.
How do I become a seasonal worker?
If you have an enquiry about how to access the programme, please direct it to the relevant country contact available on the participating countries and contacts page.
Depending on which country you are from, there are generally three recruitment pathways for seasonal workers in the programme:
- Recruitment from a work-ready pool;
- Recruitment via appointed or licensed Agents; and
- Direct recruitment by employers.
The recruitment pathways listed above vary between the 10 participating countries. Please visit Participating countries, contact points to view which pathways are used by each country.
What are the eligibility criteria to become a seasonal worker?
All seasonal workers must satisfy the following criteria:
- be of good character
- be healthy and fit for the work specified
- be aged over 21 at time of visa application
- be a citizen of the participating country and in the participating country at the time of visa application
- have a genuine intention to enter Australia for seasonal work and return to the participating country after their employment ceases
- the partner country must verify that the stated identity of the candidate is their real identity
How many hours a week will I be working while in Australia?
The approved employer must demonstrate to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment that seasonal workers will benefit financially from their participation. For all periods of employment, approved employers must guarantee a minimum average of 30 hours’ work per week to seasonal workers. Please note that you may sometimes work more than 30 hours in one week and sometimes less.
What type of pay can I expect?
seasonal workers can be paid in two different ways:
Being paid hourly means you will be paid an agreed amount by the hour.
- Piece Rate
Being paid piece rate means you will be paid for the amount picked, packed, pruned or made.
Please ensure that you read your Offer of Employment carefully and understand what type of pay you are agreeing to before coming to Australia.
For more information on pay rates please visit Resources for Seasonal Workers.
Who do I contact if I need help while in Australia?
The Seasonal Worker Programme Information Line
- +61 2 6240 5234 (Calling from overseas)
- (02) 6240 5234 (Calling within Australia)
This is the Department's Information Line that you can call during business hours if you have any questions or concerns about the Programme. You do not have to give your name when you call.
- The Fair Work Ombudsman Information Line - 13 13 94
Call this number if you have general questions about your employment conditions or pay rate, or, after talking to your employer you have concerns about your pay or employment conditions.
Department of Home Affairs - 13 18 81
Call this number if you have general questions about your visa, or would like to change your contact details, or talk to a departmental officer.
Safe Work Australia - 1300 551 832
If you require specific information on work, health and safety issues, Safe Work Australia may be able to refer you to the relevant authority in the state where you are employed.
- If you are ever in a life threatening or time critical emergency, call 000 for police, fire or ambulance
Can I accept other job opportunities during my stay in Australia?
No. All workers who enter Australia to take part in the Seasonal Worker Programme must continue to be employed by their sponsor (employer) for the duration of their placement in Australia. Seasonal workers must only do the work in the industry covered by their visa and cannot work for themselves or anyone other than their sponsor (employer).
Will I be provided with any resources to assist me during my stay in Australia?
Yes. You will be provided with information in pre-departure training on working and living in Australia. Upon arrival, your employer will also provide you with an on arrival briefing when you arrive in Australia with more specific information about the location and community where you will be working.
Additionally, seasonal workers should be provided with a ‘Pre-departure Guidebook’ in their language. To download, print or view a copy of the Guidebook, please visit Resources for Seasonal Workers.
We strongly encourage all seasonal workers to read and keep this booklet with them. It will assist them to understand the programme as living and working where is different from home.
What is the best way to send money back to my home country?
To assist seasonal workers in finding the best value way to send money to their home country, there has been a free website tool created called Send Money Pacific, which lets you compare how much it will cost you to send money from Australia back to the Pacific Islands.
To view a short guide on how to use the website please download the three clicks away guidance page.
For more information please visit Remitting Money using SendMoneyPacific page.
Why is it important to check costs before sending money home?
Sending money to family or your community at home may be very expensive, sometimes you must pay a bank or money transfer operator over $35 every time you send money home. The hidden costs of currency conversion – the extra, hidden fee charged for changing Australian dollars into your home country’s currency - can make a big difference to the amount received in your home country.
What is tax and how does it affect me as a seasonal worker?
In 2012, the Australian Government introduced a special arrangement for the Seasonal Worker Programme taxation rate. Seasonal workers in the programme are taxed at a rate of 15 cents in every dollar.
For example, if you earn A$100, you will be taxed A$15, leaving you with $85 in your pay. If you earn A$1000 you will be taxed A$150, leaving you with A$850 in your pay before other deductions. Your Approved Employer will deduct tax on your behalf.
Under the special arrangements, you do not complete a tax return and you cannot claim tax deductions to get any of your tax back.
What is superannuation and how does it affect me as a seasonal worker?
Superannuation makes sure that Australians have money to live on when they retire. Superannuation is a compulsory saving, which is paid by your employer on top of your wages and is usually a minimum of 9.5% of your salary. While working in Australia your approved employer must make superannuation payments for you and can help you choose your superannuation fund.
Australian citizens cannot access superannuation money until they retire. Because you are not an Australian citizen, you can claim your superannuation when you return to your home country and your visa expires. You can fill out a ‘Departing Australia Superannuation Form’, and nominate any superannuation you have earned to be put into a bank account or sent to you by cheque.
You are taxed on your superannuation at a rate of 15%, and when you claim it back in your home country, you will be taxed a further 35%. It can take time for your paperwork to be processed and for you to receive your superannuation so it is important that you organise and complete the required paperwork before you leave Australia—your approved employer can help you with this.
What do I do if I lose my passport during my stay in Australia?
Immediately after losing your passport it is important that you notify your team leader and approved employer, but it is also your responsibility to contact your country’s consular office to arrange a new passport. You will likely need to travel to the consular office to apply for a replacement passport. You will also need to take identification with you to prove your identity – suitable identification may include your drivers’ licence, visa approval letter, tax file number record or birth certificate. You may need to contact your family back home to help you obtain some of these documents.
Am I allowed to leave Australia early and return home?
Yes, you can volunteer to return home early. You can also go home and come back during a placement if that has been agreed with your employer (for example, to attend to an urgent family matter and then come back to work, noting you will need to pay for your return airfare if you plan to come back).