The Morrison Government has today announced the first stage of reforms to Australia's labour mobility programs – the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) – which will make the programs easier to access, protect worker welfare, and better meet the workforce needs of regional Australia.
The PLS and SWP are highly valued by Australian businesses as well as partner countries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific and Timorese workers have been the lifeblood of many regional businesses, ensuring meat could be processed and crops could be harvested.
The centrepiece of today's reforms is a single streamlined application process for both the PLS and SWP offering more flexibility and less red tape.
This will ensure the Pacific labour programs continue to meet critical worker shortages and remain the Australian Government's leading workforce program into the future. Eligible approved employers will also have their status recognised for both programs.
The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) website (palmscheme.gov.au) has been established for employers to apply to join the PLS and SWP through a single application.
In addition, we have made the SWP and PLS more aligned and flexible so they can better respond to the needs of employers and workers, by:
- Allowing PLS workers to be recruited in more locations across regional Australia by reducing postcode restrictions to better align with the SWP.
- Increasing the validity period for labour market testing from 6 months to 12 months, reducing red tape for employers.
- Doubling recruitment caps for SWP approved employers with a good record that also have financial capacity to support additional worker arrivals.
- Enabling accommodation businesses like hotels and resorts to employ SWP workers to support peak seasons in tourism across rural and regional Australia.
- Allowing PLS workers who have spent 3 years in Australia to continue working for an additional 12 months while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.
- Continuing the existing COVID-related flexibilities which allow redeployments of workers to another approved employer, subject to labour market testing and welfare considerations, and the ability to extend their stay onshore.
- Removing the upper age limit of 45 years for PLS workers, aligning with the age criteria for the SWP, to allow all workers over the age of 21 to participate.
These changes will deliver immediate improvements, including expanded access to Pacific workers for new and existing employers. A new PALM Scheme Advisory Group will continue to ensure all stakeholders are benefiting from the programs.
Today's announcement is the first phase of reforms to the PLS and SWP, with further measures to address portability and red tape to be announced later this year.
Since the PLS and SWP recommenced in September last year, more than 10,600 Pacific and Timorese workers have arrived from participating countries.
The changes announced today will support the Australian Government's commitment to bring an additional 12,500 workers to Australia by March next year, with 27,000 workers already in the work-ready pool.
Further information about these reforms, including the consultation summary report, can be found at palmscheme.gov.au