Dec/Jan 2019/20 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

With farms scattered over every corner of Australia, it is common for many growers to provide accommodation to their workers.
Farm accommodation can draw in more workers to remote areas and help backpackers without their own transportation.

Unfortunately, substandard accommodation is a common complaint among transient workers. If you provide accommodation to your workers, it is important to make sure it is a safe and fair arrangement.

The Fair Farms Standard promotes that businesses ensure the accommodation they provide is safe, freely chosen and meets
legal requirements.

Safe accommodation

Where a person lives has a big impact on how happy, healthy and secure they feel. Therefore, accommodation for workers must:
Be in line with local council regulations

  • Have emergency exits, fire alarms and safety equipment
  • Have appropriate facilities, including toilets, washing, dining, laundry and refrigeration
  • Provide easily accessible potable water, hot water and electricity
  • Be sanitary and reasonably free from rodents and insects
  • Be located away from production buildings (eg. not in a packing shed)

Importantly, the accommodation must not be overcrowded. Generally, there should be two or less people in each room and
each person should have at least 5.5m2 of floor space in sleeping areas.

Additionally, many overseas workers are not used to the climate conditions of working and living in rural Australia. Therefore,
accommodation should have adequate heating, cooling and ventilation.

Finally, workers need to be able to move freely. You cannot excessively interfere or place restrictions on workers’ freedom of
movement beyond what is reasonable for personal safety. This means you cannot lock workers in their accommodation at night or keep them in a remote area without access to transport.

Freely chosen

A key element of the Fair Farms Standard is freely chosen accommodation. This means you cannot make workers stay in
your accommodation as part of their job. If you charge workers for accommodation, the cost must be fair and reasonable when
compared with other accommodation options in the area.

Legal requirements

If you deduct rent from wages, have written agreements with workers and document the deduction on payslips. If you don’t
deduct wages, make sure you give receipts.

If accommodation falls under a tenancy authority, make sure you and the worker sign a legal tenancy agreement and that you lodge any bond with the relevant authority. If the accommodation you provide falls outside of the tenancy authority, you need to have written agreements in place that outline the conditions of tenancy.