Commuting and accommodating seasonal/contract workers during coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Victorian Government recognises the importance of the agricultural sector and are committed to providing support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Slowing the spread
To slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is vital the whole supply chain adopts enhanced cleaning regimes, hygiene practices and physical distancing measures.
Workers in the agricultural sector should maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people wherever possible. In enclosed spaces, there should be a minimum of four square metres of available floorspace per person. This includes all sheds, offices, warehouses or other commercial premises.
Employing seasonal workers
Seasonal workers are an important part of Victorian agriculture. The below information helps those businesses or employers who rely on a larger and more mobile workforce.
Commuting to, from and around work
Carrying passengers in a car should be avoided, unless they live together in a household. Cars represent an enclosed space where there may be a heightened risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Travelling as a passenger in a car, or carrying multiple passengers is strongly discouraged.
Where workers are from different households and must travel together, they should try to achieve physical distancing requirements while commuting to and around the worksite. Try to maintain at least 1.5 metres (approximately two arms-lengths) between passengers during transportation. If commuting by bus, minibus or van, passengers should keep at least one vacant seat in all directions, separating them from other passengers.
Wherever possible vehicles should have as much fresh air circulation by adjusting air conditioning or opening windows and allowing air circulation between trips by leaving windows down. Vehicles should be regularly cleaned, and surfaces disinfected – paying particular attention to frequently touched surfaces.
- Have alcohol-based hand sanitiser for their own use and available for use by their passengers
- Provide closed bins in vehicles where appropriate to enable the hygienic disposal of waste and rubbish such as used tissues, immediately after use.
If any workers are unwell, even with mild cold and flu like symptoms, they should not be allowed in the vehicle and should isolate themselves at home. If the unwell person is not at home, use a private car driven by the person or an existing close contact to travel home and self-isolate.
If you suspect you or one of your workers may have coronavirus (COVID-19) call the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.
Some employers and labour hire companies are responsible for providing accommodation for agricultural workers.
Accommodation should ideally be provided on-farm to avoid transportation, which can increase the risk of transmission. Accommodation must be of a standard to allow for appropriate hygiene and physical distancing practices. The premises should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the workers arrive, after they leave, and as regularly as possible during their stay.
Employers who provide worker accommodation are encouraged to have a plan for how they would support a worker that needed to self-isolate from others due to being a close contact of a person confirmed to have coronavirus or testing positive to coronavirus.
Read further information on self-isolation requirements.
Employers must comply with any local government requirements regarding the provision of on-site accommodation.
Should on-site accommodation be unavailable, employers may explore the use of self-contained accommodation facilities (e.g. motel rooms with bathroom, individual cabins, etc.) to accommodate workers as close to their worksite as possible.
From 1 June, workers may stay at a caravan park, provided there are private facilities available (e.g cabins) and there is no use of communal areas like shared bathrooms and kitchens. Accommodation which requires use of communal areas, such as shared bathrooms and kitchens, remains subject to current restrictions and workers cannot stay there.
To reduce the risk of transmission between groups, workers who operate in teams should be accommodated and commute to/from work within the same group as far as practicable.
1. Farmer Alex has multiple seasonal workers who share the same house, which is provided by him. In addition to work undertaken on Alex’s farm, workers will be sub-contracted to other farms throughout the season. Alex will hire a driver to transport the workers to other locations.
Since the workers are living together, they are classified a household.
Alex should, however, encourage the driver, who is not from the same household, to maintain a minimum of 1.5 metres from the passengers at all times as per the physical distancing requirement.
When moving to another farm site, ideally the same work team should remain together, and arrangements should be in place to ensure the team can maintain physical distancing from other workers.
2. Farmer Stefan has fruit orchards and advertises for backpackers and seasonal workers. He typically picks up the workers from various locations in town himself and drives them back to his farm.
As the workers are not from the same household, all occupants in the vehicle should maintain a distance of 1.5 metres, as per the physical distancing requirement. In order to manage this, Stefan should hire additional vehicles with dedicated drivers.
Smaller teams will travel together in a seating configuration that ensures physical distancing is maintained.
3. Farm manager Kris generally carpools to work in a small passenger vehicle with four other workers, who live in separate houses in town.
Travelling as a passenger in a car, or carrying multiple passengers is strongly discouraged. It is recommended the workers separate into separate vehicles if possible.
If this is not possible, then the workers should try to maintain the 1.5 metre physical distance between each worker by using as many vehicles as available or by using a larger vehicle.
4. Olivia runs a contract shearing team who move from farm to farm over the shearing season. Normally the team travels in two vans and camp on-site with communal kitchen, shower and toilet facilities.
Olivia should ensure that the team maintains physical distance of at least 1.5m when travelling and should ensure an increased cleaning regime of the vans.
Olivia will need to review the existing accommodation arrangements in line with the directions of the Department of Health and Human Services. Accommodation which requires use of communal areas, such as shared bathrooms and kitchens, remains subject to current restrictions and workers cannot stay there.
Employers can access support to source workers through the Working for Victoria program. Through this program, workers can be provided with support to commute or to relocate to their new place of work.
For more information about accessing support through the Working for Victoria, visit vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria.
For the most up-to-date information on the Victorian Government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19), visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au.