Farm workplace policies (updated July 2019)

Farm workplace policies explained

Workplace policies define acceptable workplace behaviours, set out implications for not complying with the policies and often reinforce and clarify standard operating procedures (SOPs).

This topic is about developing policies for managing behaviours and incidents that might occur on dairy farms, where an incident is an occurrence or event resulting in physical or psychological injury, damage to property or something that nearly causes one of these events.

Having well documented policies will contribute to your farm being a safer and more enjoyable workplace, where people want to work and stay. 

People leave farms if they don’t feel safe or comfortable and replacing them is costly. Documenting policies also helps ensure your farm complies with equal opportunity and health and safety legislation.

The benefits of workplace policies

Well written policies that are understood by everyone on the farm help to prevent or minimise health, safety and welfare risks and help employers manage staff more effectively by defining behaviours that are acceptable or unacceptable in the workplace.

Farms with documented workplace policies are more likely to:

  • have people who comply with the values of the business and employment legislation;
  • be able to provide evidence in support of their actions when possible legal actions arise;
  • save time when a new problem arises by handling it quickly and effectively through an existing policy;
  • clarify functions and responsibilities;
  • effectively assess performance and establish accountability;
  • ensure consistency in decision making and operational procedures;
  • operate in an efficient and businesslike manner;
  • foster stability and continuity;
  • maintain the direction of the business even during times of change; and
  • provide the framework for business planning.

Work through these six steps to help ensure your farm workplace policies are successfully introduced and implemented – download developing farm workplace policies

Types of workplace policies

As a minimum, dairy farms should have policies for handling an emergency, accident, illness, injury or a near miss. There should also be policies that deal with discrimination and bullying, harassment, and alcohol and drug use – keep reading for more information about these different policies. Templates are listed at the bottom of the page – split by workplace policies and activity related policies.

You may also want to include policies for smoking; internet, email and mobile phone use; or children on farms 

Read Workplace Policies & Procedures for information on other policies – such as leave, a code of conduct (also go to Recruitment), dress standard, internet and email use. You can also create standard operating procedures – see the sections within the Farm Safety Manual for more information.

Social media

It’s a good idea in this tech-savvy age to have a social media policy. Employees, contractors and sub-contractors need to know that making comments on social media about their employer and their workplace – even if they don’t name names – can be against the terms of their employment contract. Employees should not say or do anything on social media that:

– has the potential to bring your business into disrepute;
– gives away or discusses confidential information;
– could be viewed as derogatory towards or disparaging of workmates, customers or clients;
– undermines their effectiveness or productivity at work (eg, through excessive use).

Download a social media policy template

Discrimination and harassment (inc. sexual harassment)

Discrimination and harassment because of personal characteristics is unlawful.

A way to help ensure discrimination and harassment does not occur on your farm is to have and promote a written policy that makes it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated.

You may want to develop a policy that covers all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment or, as some businesses do, develop a separate policy for sexual harassment. 

Download a harassment policy template and customise this to your farm.

Download our discrimination and harassment fact sheet which explains what you might like to include in these policies (includes definitions, example statements and templates).

You can also read more at the Australian Human Rights Commission


From 1 January 2014, a worker in a business or undertaking will be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to prevent them from being bullied at work.

Download our bullying fact sheet which explains what bullying is, who the laws apply to, the anti-bullying process and how to prevent a bullying claim. You can use a No Bullying Policy template to create a policy for your farm.

Mentally healthy workplaces

Businesses that care about good mental health and wellbeing attract and retain people because they’re great places to work. Healthy workplaces promote mental health and wellbeing. They are positive and productive, and get the best out of everyone in the workplace. As well as benefiting employees, a mentally healthy workplace is also better for your bottom line.



Improving workplace mental health is in everyone’s interest

Workplace Health and Safety (WH&S) legislation requires workplaces to be as far as is reasonably practicable – physically and mentally safe and healthy – for all employees. This means taking steps to ensure the working environment does not harm mental health or worsen an existing condition. 

Both employers and employees have formal rights and responsibilities under discrimination, privacy, and work health and safety legislation – read more about Healthy workplaces at Heads Up

Heads Up have great online resources you can use in your farm business – read about mentally healthy workplace strategies and tips for managers and also tips for employees to create a mentally healthy workplaces and Download: mental health and wellbeing policy


Drugs and alcohol (updated June 2018)

Drug and alcohol use in the workplace creates a range of problems. Employees with drug and alcohol problems can cause injury to themselves and others and damage their physical and mental health. 

Download the developing and implementing a farm drug and alcohol policy which explains how to develop and implement a policy, including information about WHS requirements, benefits of having a policy, consultation, testing and tips about what to include in your drug and alcohol policy. Once you have read this, download the Drug and alcohol policy template and tailor this to your farm. You may also like to refer to the Drug and Alcohol testing service provider checklist

Return to work plans

Farm businesses have a legal obligation to help injured employees return to work – that is, to get back to work and stay at work while they recover from an injury. This can involve changing the kind of work the employee is required to do so that his or her injury is not aggravated during recovery. Experience shows that the best way to keep productivity up and insurance premiums down is to help injured workers return to work safely and as soon as possible.

For more information on helping employees return to work go to your state’s government Workcover authority website or contact your workers compensation insurer. Click here for links to these sites.


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