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Pacific Labour Scheme / Seasonal Worker Programme for Agriculture

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  • Changes to the quarantine requirements for quarantining workers under the PLS/SWP

    The agriculture sector has been experiencing a critical shortage of harvest labour over the 18 months, due to limited numbers of backpackers and other seasonal workers.

    The Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme (PLS/SWP) are options for Approved Employers to bring in overseas workers from Pacific Island nations with a low risk from COVID-19. Queensland has brought in over 3000 workers to ensure our food and fibre supply is not disrupted, which has been greatly appreciated by producers.

    There are now additional requirements for Approved Employers who wish to bring workers into Queensland under the PLS/SWP programs. These additional requirements are contained in the new Seasonal Workers International Quarantine Plans and Checklist Direction and form part of the International Quarantine Plan (IQP) completed by the Approved Employer.


    These additional requirements provide extra layers of protection for workers who support the quarantine facilities and local communities through surveillance testing, using both nose-throat swabs and saliva testing. There are also differences between surveillance testing requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. Quarantining workers who refuse to be tested will be required to quarantine for a further period of 14 days.

    Transport operators transporting quarantined persons must have an endorsed transport plan and quarantining workers who are being transported will need to wear facemasks when moving to or from the quarantine site.

    During quarantine the PLS/SWP employers do not need to follow the Checklist requirement as these risks are managed under the IQP. After the quarantine period, agribusinesses who employ seasonal workers will need to adopt the Seasonal Worker Checklist, which includes the use of the Check In Qld app and following a work health and safety risk management framework to outline how the risk of COVID-19 are being managed.

    Changes to quarantine requirements

    NEW REQUIREMENTS

    OLD REQUIREMENTS

    Seasonal Workers International Quarantine Plans and Checklist Direction Seasonal Workers Health Management and International Quarantine Plans Direction (No.2)
    Effective: 24 August 2021 Effective: 3 November 2020

    ARRIVALS

    International Arrivals Registration requires: name, DOB, primary residential address, phone number and email address; evidence of identity; travel details including arrival date in Australia or other documents as required by an emergency officer (public health).
    No formal requirement previously

    TRANSPORT

    NEW A transport operator must have a transport plan and must be endorsed.
    Previously required a health management plan

    REGIONAL FACILITY

    NEW Regional facilities are now an option to quarantine PLS/SWP workers
    Previously only on-farm facilities or nominated hotels were the only options for quarantine for seasonal workers

    QUARANTINING WORKERS

    Attending a nominated medical practice added as a reason to leave quarantine before 14 days.
    Previously a condition under the IQP.
    Surgical masks must be worn when travelling to or leaving the quarantine facility for a permitted purpose during the quarantining period. Previously a requirement under the IQP.
    NEW An additional COVID-19 test is required on Day 5 (full regime now first test as soon as possible after arrival at the quarantine site, Day 5 and Day 12-13) Previously required under the IQP, but only 2 tests (as soon as possible after arrival and on day 12 or day 13)

    OTHER WORKERS IN A QUARANTINE FACILITY

    NEW Anyone in contact with quarantining PLS/SWP workers or entering the quarantine area must complete surveillance COVID-19 testing whether vaccinated or unvaccinated.
    Previously a requirement under the IQP.

    NEW Testing for a person in contact with PLS/SWP workers or entering the quarantine area:

    Vaccinated person:

    • requires both a nose/throat swab and saliva test within 7 days of arrival at a facility
    • requires a saliva test at each shift at the facility (if missed the test is to be made up):
    • if away for 7 days or more
    • continue a nose/throat swab test on a rolling 7-day cycle until 14 days have passed.
    • no isolation required while awaiting test result if the worker does not have COVID-19 symptoms
    • any worker who develops COVID-19 symptoms must stop work and seek medical attention, be tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a negative test result and are symptom-free.

    Unvaccinated person must do the above and:

    • continue to be tested with a nose/throat swab test on a rolling 7-day cycle
    • must (if not at the site on day 7) have a nose/throat test on day 6 or day 8
    • If away for 7 days or more have a nose/throat swab test on the last shift before being away and on the first return shift on return (at their usual testing location)


    REQUIREMENTS:

    • An approved employer must facilitate the COVID-19 testing and keep records of testing.


    NEW A worker employed or engaged by a transport operator who has serviced a domestic charter bus or flight with a quarantine person on board must undertake surveillance
    COVID-19 testing.

    NEW A maintenance and repairs contractor or medical practitioner who enters the quarantine area must be tested as above if directed to do so by an emergency officer.
    Previously required under the IQP to align with the Requirements for Facility Workers Direction. The requirement for all facility staff to undergo surveillance testing has now changed to those persons who enter the quarantine area (e.g. pathology staff, medical staff, catering staff).

    SEASONAL WORKER REQUIREMENTS

    Seasonal workers will need to follow the requirements of the agribusiness that employs them including the requirements to use of the Check In Qld app and following the work health and safety risk management framework to manage the risks associated with COVID-19.

    Previously the seasonal worker business needed to have and comply with an accommodation and transport health management plan and a workplace health management plan these have now been replaced with the Seasonal Worker Checklist.