NFF condemns union over Ag Visa claims
NFF CEO Tony Mahar has hit back at divisive comments made by the Australian Workers Union leader, Daniel Walton in The Australian earlier this week. Mr Walton made offensive and incorrect allegations of modern slavery when discussing plans for a dedicated Ag Visa. Mr Mahar said the comments revealed a lack of understanding about the industry and how the new visa will operate.
Industry Mentoring Program applications extended
Thinking about your future in agriculture? Farmers and other people working in agriculture now have until 30 September to sign up for the ARLF’s free mentoring program. Over 6 months, participants will receive access to an industry mentor, online webinars and development content, and become part of ARLF’s national alumni network. Places are limited so click here to apply now.
COVID-19 Workforce Guide receives 2021 update, highlights importance of vaccines
Advice on vaccinations in the workplace is at the center of the NFF’s updated COVID-19 Workforce Guide. The Guide, first released in April 2020, collates practical information outlining ways farmers and farm workers can operate in a COVID safe way. The document has been updated to include information on how employers can encourage vaccine uptake among their workforce. A copy of the guide can be downloaded here.
Agriculture's leaders gather virtually for diversity workshop
The NFF, in partnership with nation’s leading agriculture-focussed organisations, this week hosted a virtual discussion centered around ways to make agriculture a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The day-long event heard from partnering organisations on the steps already being taken to make the industry more accessible to encourage further action. The event aligns with the NFF’s 2030 Roadmap goal to make agriculture a career option for all.
Aus food and agri startups shortlisted for Rabobank's international pitch program
Eight change-making Australian startups are among 45 global food system innovators shortlisted for prestigious food and agri discovery program: FoodBytes! Pitch 2021. Recognised for outstanding innovation in the fields of sustainable supply chains, improved resource management and the next frontier of nutrition, the Australian cohort represent 18% of this year’s FoodBytes! top 45, and includes five female founded and/or led entrepreneurial businesses.
Vaccines in the workplace
It’s good business for farms to create safe and healthy workplaces. In addition to the moral and legal duties involved, good health and safety promotes business continuity, productivity and staff morale. Furthermore, as an industry it’s in agriculture's interests to have open borders, an economy functioning with minimal disruptions, and a return to 'business as usual' as soon as possible.
In the present context, critical to those aims will be encouraging and enabling farmers and workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As a minimum, employers should be taking steps to facilitate workers getting vaccinated.
- That will mean assisting workers to be properly informed about the vaccine, its availability and the consequences of being/not being vaccinated.
- It will also include ensuring, within reason, that workers have the time and opportunity to get the jab.
The overarching message is that farms should try to work cooperatively with their employees with respect to vaccines and fighting COVID-19. Ideally before any mandatory direction or decision is made the employer should talk to their employees and make reasonable efforts to reach a position which is agreeable to all.
Vaccine and leave
There is generally no legal obligation to provide employees with pay or leave to get vaccinated unless it follows from a workplace direction. As such, if an employee wants to get vaccinated during work hours they may have to take annual leave or time off in lieu. However, that general position may be varied by employment contracts or industrial instruments.
That said, employers may wish to consider whether they will allow employees to get vaccinated with pay during work hours on a voluntary basis.
If, as a consequence of getting vaccinated, an employee develops symptoms of illness and is not fit for work then they are entitled to take personal leave while they recover.
Vaccines and Work Health and Safety
According to Safe Work Australia's (SWA's) guidance, it is 'unlikely' that employers have a legal power/ obligation to require workers be vaccinated as a consequence of their (the employer's or the worker's) duties under WHS laws. That is because it won’t typically be considered a 'reasonably practicable' step to take to eliminate/minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
However, each business will need to assess the position for themselves. Furthermore, that guidance may change if, for example, the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee changes.
SWA's complete guidance on WHS laws and the COVID-19 vaccines can be found here.
Employees generally can’t refuse to attend work because co-workers aren’t vaccinated, although if there is a genuine reason to believe that they may get infected from a co-worker (e.g. because a co-worker is infected) then they will have a stronger case.
Extract from the NFF’s updated COVID-19 Workplace Guide. Download the full guide, here.
Quote of the week
"We need to identify the real and pperceived barriers standing between Australians and meaningful participation in agriculture. With critical shortages across the farm sector, we can't wait a minute longer to do this important work."
- NFF President Fiona Simson in diversity in agriculture