Fostering fair employment practices in the Australian horticulture industry

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Fair Farms Training and Certification Program

Many of you will be getting requests from your customers to put in place a system to demonstrate that you are fair and responsible employers. The Fair Farms Training and Certification Program will support Australian fresh produce production and packing enterprises to implement fair and responsible employment practices. The program will provide a mechanism for growers to demonstrate to their customers and other interested parties their compliance with Australian workplace relations laws and industry standards.

The Fair Farms Training and Certification Program is currently being piloted with a small number of businesses. We aim to have the program operational and open for businesses to join by the middle of 2019.

Fair Farms is being developed by Growcom (the peak body for Queensland production horticulture as the scheme owner. The program has in-principle support from the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman and leading retailers in the domestic market.

The program comprises:

  • An industry owned and developed Standard benchmarked against Australian workplace law
  • A coordinated system of quality training to support growers to understand their obligations
  • A pathway to certification, if required, including a mechanism to enable cost-effective third-party audits by competent auditors
  • A credible certification that provides certainty and transparency in the supply chain and that enables businesses committed to fair employment to differentiate themselves from less reputable operators.
  • Data capture to enable industry and customer reporting in relation to compliance

The program’s key objective is to assist growers to manage their compliance requirements and risks in the most cost effective way possible. Our long experience in this area has shown that most growers aim to do the right thing by their workers but may not be 100% across all of their legal requirements and appreciate assistance to identify areas where they need to improve. For that reason the program includes a strong training element which aims to raise the level of knowledge amongst industry members and support a significant improvement in employment standards across fresh produce businesses. The training offered through the program will give growers clear guidance on the procedures and records they must have in place prior to proceeding to audit.

The pathway to certification is set out below. Participants in the Fair Farms program can proceed to audit and certification if they wish to or if their customer(s) requests it. We recommend that all participants undertake an initial audit within the first two years of joining the program. The ongoing frequency of audits will be determined by the level of risks identified within the business.

As a grower organisation, our commitment to growers is to

  • Provide support in how to meet emerging requirements in the supply chain to demonstrate good employment practices,
  • Ensure costs are transparent and kept to a minimum
  • Keep the program up to date and maintained to reflect current laws and risks.

We will maintain ownership of the program so there is a responsible entity to manage any concerns, complaints and opportunities to improve. One of our major objectives is that operators who exploit or mistreat their workers are shut out of the supply chain.

Fair Farms certification scheme expressions of interest

If you would like to be kept informed about the progress of the pilot and contacted once the program starts in early 2019, please register your details.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who can join the Fair Farms program?

The program is open to all horticulture farming and packing enterprises in Australia. As part of the pilot phase we are reviewing whether to expand to scope of the program to other businesses within the horticulture supply chain, such as wholesalers, ripening houses, food brokers.

Do I have to be a Growcom member or Queensland grower?

No. The program is open to all horticulture businesses in Australia.

How do I benefit from being Fair Farm certified?

Your business will benefit from being Fair Farms certified in a number of ways including:

  • You will set yourself apart as an ethical employer. This will make more farm workers want to come and work for you. Labour hire firms are likely to send more workers your way. Overall, a Fair Farms Certification will help you to improve your supply of consistent labour.
  • Being Fair Farms certified will improve your ability to sell to the major Australian retailers. It is becoming apparent that the Fair Farms Certification (or a similar work-place compliance certificate) may well become a mandatory requirement for all farmers wanting to remain part of the big retailers’ supply chain.
  • You will demonstrate to the regulator and any other interested parties that you are committed to complying with the Australian employment laws and ethical standards.

What will it cost?

The pilot process will help us confirm the exact pricing arrangements for the program. Our commitment is to keep program costs transparent and kept to a minimum while delivering value to participating businesses. At this point, we anticipate program costs to include:

Registration/Annual membership fee: In the first year, the registration fee will be set at $150 per registered business or site. Upon registration, the business can access the Fair Farms Standard and undertake an on-line self-assessment or training needs analysis (TNA). This will be regularly updated to reflect legislative changes and best practice.

Training: The pricing of Fair Farms training is yet to be established. The specific level of training required by a participant in the program will be determined through the on-line training needs assessment. Available options for training will include half-day training courses covering the basic areas of employment practices as well as shorter training modules relevant to a specific area of the Fair Farms Standard. Fair Farms training will be delivered face-to-face, through webinar, over the phone and we are looking to incorporate e-learning tools.

Audit: We have entered into an arrangement with AUS-QUAL to provide fixed price audits depending on the number of employees. As we are still in the pilot phase, we can’t give a definitive answer but please be assured that controlling audit costs is one of our main objectives. The development of the Fair Farms Standard means the audit costs are lower and the process is more efficient as you know ahead of time what you will be audited against and what documentation you need. Templates and examples will be provided as part of the program. The frequency of audits will be determined by the level of risks identified in your business.

Will there be training near me?

The intention is to have training options available in all States and Territories. A comprehensive training package has been developed and Growcom is working with our partners in other States to develop a full delivery schedule for 2019.

Does my customer/retailer accept Fair Farms?

We are in discussions with all major retailers in Australia with the goal of securing their support and acceptance of Fair Farms as the industry standard for ethical employment in horticulture. At this stage Woolworths and ALDI have both confirmed that they will accept Fair Farms audits as an alternative to SEDEX. The other retailers have indicated their in-principle support, but we are still negotiating how it will fit within their existing programs. Please note that it is up to you to confirm with your customer if they will accept Fair Farms.

Is the Fair Farms Program relevant to me if I use a Labour Hire Company?

Yes. Even if all of your workers are supplied through a labour hire arrangement, you still have significant obligations and responsibilities under the Fair Work Act. The Fair Farms Standard spells out these responsibilities and your business would benefit from participation in the Fair Farms Program.

Can Fair Farms just be added into HARPS?

With its focus on workplace and employment practices and procedures, the Fair Farms program will be distinct from HARPS and other food safety and quality systems. The Fair Farms program will require specialist auditors with specific training and qualifications in workplace relations, employment and social issues.

How do I sign up?

Please register your expression of interest following the link below. You will be contacted with updates about the progress of the pilot and will be contacted once the program starts early in 2019.

I’m still unsure. Can I speak to someone?

Please call our Fair Farms team on 07 3620 3844 or email

The Fair Farms Initiative aims to ensure that workers are treated fairly while they are employed in horticultural farms and pack houses.

While most growers aim to do the right thing, it can be challenging to ensure that employment procedures and record keeping systems are fully compliant with workplace relations laws. This can lead to misapplication of pay rates or other errors that disadvantage workers.

And sadly, there are businesses in our industry that purposefully exploit farm workers, which attracts significant media coverage and tarnishes the reputation of the industry as a whole. This increases the risk of losing workers to other industries – or even other travel destinations.

The Fair Farms Initiative has been established to tackle these issues. The Initiative supports growers with tools and information to implement employment practices that comply with workplace relations laws and industry standards – and to demonstrate this to customers and the wider community.

This national project is being delivered by Growcom with seed funding from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

While it has a focus on vulnerable workers, the initiative aims to benefit all workers and growers in the longer term. Growcom is working closely with state and national horticulture industry groups, retailers and supply chain stakeholders to ensure the initiative meets the needs of all industry members.

Fair Farms certification scheme

The Fair Farms Initiative gives industry an opportunity to establish a practical market recognition scheme that enables farm businesses to demonstrate that their employment practices comply with Australian laws and industry standards.

The development of the scheme is timely. There is an increasing global public focus on ethical supply chains and ‘modern slavery’. In Australia, there has been significant media coverage of underpayment, exploitation or mistreatment of workers on farms and food packing or processing facilities. In response, Australian retailers have adopted responsible or ethical sourcing policies and are looking at how these will be implemented with their fresh produce suppliers.

The Fair Farms certification scheme will offer

  • A code of practice that clearly outline what farm businesses must do to comply with employment laws and industry standards
  • An online self-assessment against the code
  • Training options
  • Third party auditing and certification, if required

The scheme will be piloted with a number of farm businesses during 2018 to ensure it delivers fairness for workers, assurance to customers and the community, and a practical process for growers.

Introducing the Fair Farms Initiative team

Thomas Hertel
Fair Farms Training and Certification Program

Jane Muller
Growcom Fair Farms Initiative Project Manager

Rebecca Myers
Growcom Workplace Relations Advisor

Lucy Kluck
Fair Farms Certification Program HR Officer

Donna Mogg
DLM Consulting Horticulture Workplace Relations Specialist

For further information contact:

Thomas Hertel
07 3620 3844

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