Hiring and keeping staff is more than compliance with the law (updated March 2020)

With changes in the industry over the past 25 years, we can’t do all the work on our farms without help. Farms that have been successful in growing their business have the right people for the right jobs. This doesn’t happen by luck. Having a clear understanding of the role and type of person you want gives employers a better chance of finding and keeping the right people. There are some good resources available to help make the recruiting and engagement process comprehensive but still pretty straightforward. For an employment relationship to work, both employer and employee must share the same expectations about the job. To make sure you are both ‘on the same page’, there are 3 documents you can’t live without:
  • A position description
  • An employment contract
  • An employee details form
Start with a position (job) description
A position description (or job description) is a statement that explains a job. Writing a position description will help clarify the skills and traits you need the new employee to have. It should include:
  • job title and location
  • duties, responsibilities and tasks – what you need the person to do, who they are in charge of and who they report to
  • any required skills, qualifications, licenses and experience
  • any other requirements – such as physical demands
  • your expectations – such as production targets
  • any benefits, such as accommodation
  • whether the position is full-time, part-time or casual.

Don’t include anything that isn’t necessary for the job such as gender, age or family responsibilities. Not only will you be limiting the people who will apply for the job, but it could be discrimination and break the law.

Think carefully about what you really want. Do you just need a hand with the milking (casual milker) or do you want to delegate some responsibility to a farm manager and have some work life balance – a holiday?

Sometimes employees are hard to find. Can you train up an existing employee or take on an apprentice or trainee – refer to the FAQ – What is an apprenticeship or traineeship? Would backpackers suit your short-term staffing needs?

You should also start thinking about your obligations and asking yourself the following questions: what are the minimum wages? What other conditions may they be entitled to? What hours do you want them to work?

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Think about where the person you want is likely to look – which isn’t necessarily where you would look, e.g. noticeboards at schools and employment websites. You should have a budget for all the costs of your advertising. Prices vary from newspaper to newspaper, and website to website. Places to consider advertising are:
  • Australian Job Network agencies (no fees)
  • private employment companies that service the dairy industry
  • noticeboards at local shops, schools and TAFE colleges, backpacker hostels, agricultural suppliers, sporting clubs
  • your local newspaper and the regional rural paper
  • dairy company publications
  • job or industry websites (see below)
How you advertise the job will also affect who applies for it. Job ads should be based on the position description and include:
  • a brief description of your farm
  • the job title and status
  • a brief description of duties
  • any required skills, qualifications or experience
  • your contact information
  • how to apply for the job and a closing date for applications.
On-line job sites
Here are a few of the sites available to get you started:
  • There are some active dairy facebook groups where employers advertise jobs and prospective employees look for opportunities. Twitter is also quite active.

    Backpacker and traveller websites, such as Gumtree and Harvest Trail. Gumtree is designed to connect people who are looking for work all around Australia. Gumtree has an App called My Gumtree (iPhone and iPad). Job hunters and employers can contact each other within the App.

    AgDraft advertise roles, search and contact available jobseekers, read reviews from previous employers and employees

    Ag Careers offers information on agricultural jobs around the world and can locate specific regions in each country.

    Careerjet is easy-to-use and offers a range of agricultural jobs around Australia (and also has an App)

    Seek has the thousands of jobs advertised for all different careers. It doesn’t have the same number of on-farm jobs as other sites, but is still relevant for agricultural jobs.

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Assessing applications
First of all, you can short list applicants by comparing their skills, qualifications and experience with the job description. Then to assess the short listed applicants:
  • arrange an interview to get to know them and find out a little bit more about their experience and why they want the job
  • a skills assessment if it’s relevant to the job
  • talk to their referees, making sure you ask specific questions about their skills and experience.
  • ask job applicants to work an unpaid trial. You can ask them to demonstrate a particular skill but if you ask them to do productive work, you’ll need to pay them the minimum hourly rate for the job.
  • ask person questions that aren’t related to whether or not they can do the job, such as their race, colour, gender, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. They can be offensive and discriminatory. This applies to their references as well – only ask questions that are relevant to the job they’ll be doing. Exceptions apply where the discrimination is taken because of the nature of a particular position.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging a person in the workplace because of individual characteristics

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Write an employment contract
The Pastoral Award 2010 specifically requires you to give employees a written statement setting out their classification, applicable pay and terms of engagement
Refer to the payroll section in the ESKi for classifications and pay rates.

Part-time employees and the employer must agree in writing on the regular pattern of work specifying the hours to be worked each day, the days of the week when the employee will work and the daily starting and finishing times.

Casual employees must be told that they are employed as a casual employee, the identity of the employer, their hours of work, classification level and pay rate. Employers are not required under the Pastoral Award 2010 to provide a written statement to casual employees, but this is advisable.

Be open minded

The contract of employment must not contain any terms or conditions for work which are inconsistent with or less favourable to the employee than the Pastoral Award 2010 and the National Employment Standards. If it does these terms and conditions will not be enforceable. The Contract templates can be used to create an employment contract

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Employee details form

By law, all employment records must contain the following:

  • the name of the employer
  • the name of the employee
  • whether employment is full time or part time
  • whether employment is permanent, casual or temporary
  • the date the employment began
  • the ABN of the employer.
These records can be kept on the employee details form

No employee can walk into a new job and be fully effective from the first day – effectiveness grows with understanding of the farm and the details of its operation.

Overall, employees perform better, and are more likely to stay in the job longer, when they are clear about what is expected of them from the beginning. It is important to ensure that every employee receives appropriate induction training.

Take your time to introduce your new employee to your workplace and their job. An induction checklist will help you remember the important things to cover during the induction, including:

  • Paperwork, such as completing an employee details form
  • Rosters and applying for leave (see Leave Section)
  • Terms and conditions of employment – position description and employment contract
  • Farm policies and systems
  • OH&S procedures
  • Farm tour and general information
  • Introductions to farm staff (their roles and responsibilities), contractors, suppliers, owners, management
  • A walk-through of specific job tasks.

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Probationary period

When you hire someone new, it’s a good idea to have a 3-month probation period. During probation new employees should be closely supervised, trained and assessed to see if they’re suitable for the job.

Written position descriptions are important here because they set guidelines and expectations and should be used as the basis of assessing performance.

A probation period doesn’t affect your employees’ entitlements including leave (see Leave Section) and notice of termination (see Termination Section). Full and part-time employees who don’t pass their probation are entitled to at least one weeks’ notice of termination and annual leave paid out.

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Resources, support material and updates

The ESKi is designed to get you started – we’ve integrated it with a range of resources on this website. Use our information and online templates to develop processes and/or documents that will help make your farm a workplace with good employment relationships.

The documents and links below will help you with this topic. We’ve included word templates you can download and customise plus PDFs you can print and write on.

People issues are constantly changingsubscribe to our People Matters e-bulletin (you can unsubscribe at any time) and keep up to date.

Eski checklist for employing someone
  • Do all your employees have a detailed written Position Description setting out their duties, responsibilities and tasks?
  • Do your employees have a written statement setting out their classification, applicable pay and terms of engagement? (employment contract)
  • Do you have all your employee details recorded on an employee details form?
  • Do you provide new employees with appropriate induction training, information and support? Use the induction checklist 

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