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:
- submitted an application to become an employer of seasonal workers;
- had their application assessed and found acceptable by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (with relevant input from the Department of Home Affairs and Fair Work Ombudsman); and
- has a Deed of Agreement with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and is an approved Temporary Activities Sponsor with 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.
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 Education, Skills and Employment that it is an eligible business registered and operating in Australia and has an ABN.
- Applying Entities must be incorporated in Australia or a formal partnership. Sole traders are not an eligible business.
- They must plan to recruit seasonal workers in eligible occupations within listed industries on the Seasonal Worker Programme website.
- Entities that use a Contractor business model must have at least five years of continuous operation.
- They must be an ‘Organisation’ for the purposes of the Migration Regulations 1994. This is assessed by the Department of Home Affairs.
- satisfy integrity checks conducted by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. It must:
- Have good immigration practices and a history of compliance with immigration legislation as assessed by the Department of Home Affairs.
- Have a history of compliance with Australian workplace relations, work health and safety legislation, and other relevant laws.
- Be in a sound financial position. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will conduct a financial viability assessment to determine if the applying Entity can meet the upfront costs associated with recruiting seasonal workers.
Please Note: Directors, partners, trustees or other Relevant Persons must have a history of compliance with these laws and where there has been non-compliance, it must be disclosed in the application as well as what the entity has done to prevent such non-compliance in the future. Non-disclosure can result in the application being rejected. Labour Hire Entities and Contractors, will be required to obtain a labour hire licence as applicable.
- demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment that it understands and will comply with the program requirements in the Seasonal Worker Programme Deed of Agreement and Guidelines on the program website.
- Applying entities (including Related entities) with previous experience as Approved Employers must have a satisfactory history of compliance with program requirements.
- Applying entities (including Related entities) with previous experience as Host Organisations must have a satisfactory record as Host Organisations.
Applicants must meet ALL above requirements to become an Approved Employer for the Seasonal Worker Programme.
If an Entity becomes an Approved Employer and is found to have failed to provide relevant information or, provided dishonest or misleading responses and information in their application, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment may seek to terminate the Deed with the Approved Employer. Termination of the Deed will impact any other agreements or sponsorship arrangements under the program.
If an Approved Employer breaches the program requirements, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment may seek to terminate the Deed of Agreement with the Approved Employer.
How do I apply to become an Approved Employer?
To participate in the Seasonal Worker Programme and be able to recruit seasonal workers from participating Pacific countries and Timor-Leste, an entity must successfully complete a three-step process:
Step 1: Application to become an Approved Employer
Register, complete and submit an application via SWP Online to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
It takes up to 12 weeks to receive provisional approval as an Approved Employer. Please refer to a process map for details. Most common reasons that prolong the assessment timeframe are:
- Delays in entity submitting financial statements and/or responding to enquiries related to its financial viability;
- Complexity of the entity’s and its directors/managers’ workplace relations compliance history; and
- Delays in receiving the independent referee reports.
To ensure timely processing of an application, entities are encouraged to respond to questions fully and truthfully at the time of submission and to provide all requested information.
An Entity may only apply for Approved Employer status twice in any 12-month period from the date of submitting their first application.
Should the Department of Education, Skills and Employment require further information in order to complete their assessment, the applying Entity will be sent a Request for Information via SWP Online, outlining additional information required and stating a closing date for response. If the Entity does not respond to the Request for Information prior to the closing date, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment may close the application.
Step: 2 Temporary Activity Sponsorship from Department of Home Affairs
Once provisionally approved, the entity needs to receive the Temporary Activity Sponsorship (TAS) approval from the Department of Home Affairs in order to be able to sponsor workers from participating countries to come to Australia.
Please Note: The entity has three months from the date of provisional approval to become a Temporary Activities Sponsor. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment may revoke its provisional approval if this deadline is not met and the entity will need to submit a new application if it remains interested in becoming an SWP Approved Employer.
Step 3 – SWP Deed of Agreement for Approved Employers
Once approved as a Temporary Activities Sponsor, an Entity enters into the Deed of Agreement with the department under the Seasonal Worker Programme and can start the recruitment process.
Once the Deed of Agreement is executed by the department, the Approved Employer can initiate recruitment of seasonal workers. For more information on the recruitment process please refer to the Seasonal Worker Programme Guidelines. Page 14 of the Guidelines provides a summary of the process.
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, ensuring seasonal workers have access to a minimum average of 30 hours of work per week and monitoring the seasonal workers’ welfare and 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 program 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 Education, Skills and Employment 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?
Applicants should allow about five months from lodging an application to when they can start recruiting seasonal workers, if their application is successful. This total timeframe is indicative only.
The average processing SWP Application time is approximately 12 weeks and it could take about 4-6 weeks to obtain Temporary Activity Sponsorship approval from the Department of Home Affairs and enter into the SWP Deed of Agreement.
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.
What do I do if I am unable to provide seasonal workers enough work?
Approved Employers are required to report to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment 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 Education, Skills and Employment 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 offer of employment. The Recruitment Application 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 program
- 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 New Measures 2017 factsheet.
What new measures were introduced from 5 November 2018?
On 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 be reduced from $500 to $300
Please refer to the Media Release for further information.