Worsening labour shortages forces agricultural sector to evaluate next steps

Published September 01, 2022 Molly Chandran

Agricultural businesses across Australia are currently experiencing one of the longest periods of chronic labour shortages in its history. Farmers, business owners, and growers are dealing with a range of issues that are being felt nationwide with multiple crop losses and recent flooding as well as adverse weather events. These issues and the additional strain on expenses are forcing employers to step back and evaluate next steps. There has never been a better time for employers to be well informed and aware of their obligations when it comes to managing and paying their staff.

Australia’s leading employment relations and work health and safety specialists, Employsure have released resources specifically aimed at agricultural business owners. Representing over 24,400 businesses in Australia, Employsure have leveraged their experience and knowledge to create tailored guides for employers working in Agriculture, to understand recently changed piece work rates and a work health and safety guide to combat growing workplace injuries.

Employsure’s Head of Operations, Stephen Roebuck has commented on the importance of employer obligations.

Roebuck commented, “With the Fair Work Ombudsman conducting random inspections of various agricultural businesses suspected of underpayments in North Victoria[1]. Employers are legally responsible for managing staff from all walks of life including vulnerable workers such as backpackers and migrants, many of whom do not fully understand their rights as employees and how to stay safe in a potentially hazardous environment. Common compliance issues in the sector include non-compliance with the specific employment record keeping requirements as set out in the Fair Work Act 2009[2] as well as a misunderstanding on how to apply rates of pay within the applicable Modern award(s).”

Whether employers are dealing with understanding piece rates of pay, trying to train employees in health and safety, or practicing efficient record keeping, Employsure has compiled comprehensive resources designed to support business owners.

Mr. Roebuck continued: “For many employers, not being prepared to deal with the effects of labour shortages, rising costs, and minimum wage increases, could mean the difference between staying open or closing their doors. A lot of what our resources focus on is ensuring that business owners and employers clearly understand their obligations to their staff.”

[1] North West Victorian farms checked for underpayments – Fair Work Ombudsman

[2] Legislation – Fair Work Ombudsman

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