Just like machinery, employees are an asset you need to prepare before harvest. Before the season ramps up, take the opportunity to reflect or adapt your business practices to improve productivity and efficiency. If you are hiring casual workers for the first time or the 10th it is important to understand what the law requires. Getting your records and processes in order is an important step, start harvest on the right foot, improve your efficiency and ensure you comply with HR and Safety legislation.
We’ve summarised four steps to prepare your people for harvest.
Employment contracts outline the rights and obligations of the employee and employer. The Pastoral Award states all employees must have a written employment contract. We recommend all employees are issued an employment contract when they commence working on the farm. Having a written employment contract allows you to detail the terms and conditions of employment including probation, accommodation, keep, utilities, pay rates, hours of work, vehicle usage and fitness for work. If disputes arise over pay or entitlements employment contracts are often referred to for resolution, so it is important to have quality contracts. When employing workers, you will also need to ensure, the employee has the right to work in Australia, they are given a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, Casual Employment Information Statement, National Employment Standards and they complete a superannuation and tax file declaration form.
- Individual Flexibility Agreement
An Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) is a written agreement between an employee and their employer used to change the effect of clauses in their Award. IFA’s are commonly used to change the pay rates in Awards to suit the farmer and the employee. Farmers often find that Awards can be inflexible and paying individual entitlements, allowances and penalties for employees can make payroll complicated and time-consuming, increasing the chances of error. Due to the nature of seasonal work, paying employees a flat rate for all hours worked makes this process much simpler.
However, farmers need to ensure that the flat rate they are paying takes into account the entitlements, allowances, and penalties the employee would usually be awarded if being paid as per the Award. Therefore, the employee must be Better Off Overall. If the employee is not Better Off Overall, you are required to pay overtime and penalty rates or increase the hourly rate. An IFA is essential to demonstrate the allowances, entitlements and penalties included in the higher hourly rate determined by the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT).
- Inducting Workers
It is important to induct new workers onto your farm so they are familiar with your human resources and work health and safety policies and procedures. The induction process is a good time to communicate expectations with your employee. New workers must be oriented to the farm, any machinery or equipment they will use, accommodation and vehicles.
Inductions ensure new employees transition smoothly into their role, minimising confusion and time-wasting. Not only do inductions make your farm more efficient, but as an employer, you are legally required to do them. Online inductions and induction checklists are helpful to streamline the process and ensure your new employee understands your farm, their responsibilities and your expectations of them.
Things to include in your induction process are, an overview of your human resources and safety policies and procedures, an overview of the Farm and introduction to other employees, a review of accommodation rules, emergency and first aid procedures explained and practical training for using machinery.
- Safety Meeting
New work health and safety laws have confirmed safety’s significance in agriculture moving forward. Under the new Act, farmers have an increased responsibility to ensure a work environment without risks to health and safety, safe plant and structures, safe systems of work, safety and health information, training, instruction or supervision and monitoring of the health of workers and conditions of the workplace. We recommend having safety meetings with employees before peak seasonal periods. As an employer, you need to be confident your employees have received adequate information and instruction from you to operate safely. Safety meetings are a good time to review key safe work procedures for harvest and update your risk register.
ProcessWorx has extensive experience working with farms to ensure they meet their HR and Safety obligations. Farmers can have peace of mind that a team of experts is helping their business, so you can focus on farming. Our main point of difference is the time our Advisors spend with farmers understanding their individual needs and the ongoing compliance updates we provide.
If you have queries about anything above and want advice personalised to your business, contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally written for The Liebe Group Newsletter