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Frequently asked questions

To make it easier for you to find the information you need, these questions are filtered by audience and topic in 5 categories: What’s new, general, prospective employers, current employers and workers.

What is the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme?

What is the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme?

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme allows eligible businesses that operate largely in rural and regional Australia to recruit workers from 9 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste.

As part of the scheme, workers can be employed for up to 9 months under the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) – and can return in following years – or for between one and 3 years through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

While participating businesses will still recruit workers through the existing SWP or PLS streams, the single application form makes it easier for PALM scheme employers to begin the process of finding the staff they need.

From 4 April 2022, the SWP and the PLS will be consolidated and replaced by an improved and more flexible PALM scheme. For more information, please refer to: PALM scheme media release [DOCX 41 KB] | PALM scheme media release [PDF 122 KB], or read: PALM scheme fact sheet [DOCX 50 KB] | PALM scheme fact sheet [PDF 119 KB].

When will the changes announced in November 2021 take effect and what will be involved?

When will the changes announced in November 2021 take effect and what will be involved?

The single PALM scheme will commence on 4 April 2022.

By the start date, we expect to have put in place a new single PALM scheme Deed of Agreement and employer guidelines setting out program arrangements and employer responsibilities.

A new IT platform which, over time, will deliver efficiencies for employers with all recruitment and mobilisation activities through a single portal, will also be in place by the start date (with further system enhancements to be rolled out over subsequent months).

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be consulting with impacted stakeholders and holding information sessions prior to the introduction of these changes. Further information will be provided on these opportunities for engagement.

Our stakeholders will be supported with the transition to the single program, with updated information on the PALM scheme website, in social media, in the weekly PALM scheme employer update, and at our regular consultative committee meetings.

Who is responsible for delivering the new, single PALM scheme?

Who is responsible for delivering the new, single PALM scheme?

From 4 April 2022, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will administer the new PALM scheme in partnership with the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).

DFAT will retain responsibility for key program aspects requiring government oversight, including program integrity and assurance while working closely with responsible government agencies including the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Border Force, Attorney General’s Department and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

What do the changes mean for current employers in the PALM scheme (SWP and/or PLS)?

What do the changes mean for current employers in the PALM scheme (SWP and/or PLS)?

The Government recognises it is crucial for businesses to have access to the right number of workers, with the right skills and attributes, at the right time.

The changes introduced with the new PALM scheme will help employers more easily engage workers where and when they need them, and respond to calls for greater flexibility, less red tape, and more efficient processes.

The new program flexibilities and improvements include a longer visa providing greater workforce stability and the ability for workers to more easily move between employers in response to changing workforce demands.

Employers will also benefit from streamlined administration, with:

- A single point of contact - the scheme will be administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with the support of the Pacific Labour Facility (PLF).

- A single deed and guidelines.

- More efficient methods for recruiting workers, with a single IT platform and a streamlined application process.

How will the changes make it easier to recruit, retain and redeploy workers?

How will the changes make it easier to recruit, retain and redeploy workers?

The reforms will support employers to streamline recruitment processes, facilitate retention of workers and ensure an efficient use of the available workforce.

They will provide a single PALM visa stream with extended duration up to 4 years.

There will be more flexibility to move workers, with their consent, in response to workforce needs.

Seasonal workers with a further employment offer for ongoing or higher skilled roles will be able to apply onshore for a further visa.

Labour market testing will remain valid for 12 months, and there will be more targeted use of recruitment caps.

How will workers benefit from the changes?

How will workers benefit from the changes?

The PALM scheme will provide increased opportunities for Pacific and Timorese workers to enter Australia, develop skills, earn income, and send home remittances.

Worker portability will allow workers, with their consent, to move to another employer in response to workforce demand, helping to maximise their earnings.

The longer visa length will provide workers with the opportunity to maximise skills development and complete qualifications, with the prospect of higher earnings as they move into more skilled work.

Workers offered new roles by their employers will be able to move from seasonal work more easily to longer term/year-round work under the single program.

Worker wellbeing will remain at the centre of our approach to the PALM scheme. A range of measures are in place to protect workers, including vetting of employers and stringent criteria for participation, a rigorous monitoring and compliance framework and regular reporting requirements.

The Salvation Army’s Community Connections initiative and an increased regional presence of program staff will provide on-the-ground support. Workers or anyone with a concern will be able to report this to the PLF's 24/7 hotline (1800 51 51 31) – reports can be made anonymously.

What will happen to current SWP and PLS worker placements?

What will happen to current SWP and PLS worker placements?

Current employers will be supported to transition to the new arrangements with minimal disruption to recruitments underway and current work placements.

Workers will continue in their current roles and their SWP or PLS visas will remain valid.

More information about the arrangements will be provided to employers in the coming months.

How will approved employers find out about changes to the new program?

How will approved employers find out about changes to the new program?

You will be supported through the transition to the new program with minimal disruption to recruitments, and we will inform you about any changes before the new single program commences in April 2022.

We will provide regular updates over the next few months through the weekly PALM scheme employer update, the PALM scheme website and social media channels, and at our regular consultative committee meetings.

Until the new program commences, you will retain the same contract manager for the SWP and can continue to contact the Pacific Labour Facility for the PLS. 

SWP employers can contact your contract manager, send queries via messages in SWP Online or email (seasonalworker@dese.gov.au).

PLS employers can contact the PLF on (+61 7 3557 7750) or via email (enquiries@pacificlabourfacility.com.au).

Will the cost to employers of recruiting Pacific workers change under the PALM scheme?

Will the cost to employers of recruiting Pacific workers change under the PALM scheme?

In general, we expect the costs to employers of entering the PALM scheme and recruiting workers will be similar to the equivalent costs for the SWP and PLS.

Administrative streamlining, including single processes covering seasonal and long-term workers, will reduce time and effort required by employers to participate in the PALM scheme and recruit workers.

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. Am I eligible? How do I apply?

I’m interested in becoming a PALM scheme employer. Am I eligible? How do I apply?

You can find out more by visiting the employer eligibility page on this website. After considering the information and determining if you are eligible, you can apply to become a PALM scheme employer via the single application form.

If you are unlikely to be eligible or do not feel you are able to meet program requirements, you may wish to work with an SWP or PLS labour hire firm or contractor. For more information on these, please refer to this list of current SWP and PLS employers.

How can I ensure I have the best chance of success with my application to become a PALM scheme employer?

How can I ensure I have the best chance of success with my application to become a PALM scheme employer?

For the best chance of success, prospective employers are encouraged to make sure all questions in the application form are answered fully and truthfully.

Any history of reported non-compliance activities must be disclosed, and you must demonstrate you have well-considered plans in place to ensure your workers’ wellbeing is a key priority.

It is also important for an employer to demonstrate that they have the financial resources to cover the upfront and ongoing costs of engaging seasonal workers. For more information visit the employers page on this website.

As a PALM scheme employer, do I have to pay for the costs of quarantine?

As a PALM scheme employer, do I have to pay for the costs of quarantine?

One of the conditions for recommencing the SWP and the PLS was that the cost of quarantine would not be transferred to the worker.

In some states and territories, the cost of quarantine is subsidised by the relevant state/territory government, or the requirement for quarantine has been removed.

For more information, talk to your industry representative or relevant contacts in state and territory government.

Can all SWP employers access the accommodation sector?

Can all SWP employers access the accommodation sector?

Access to the accommodation sector is available to SWP approved employers in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Tropical North Queensland, Kangaroo Island and all other parts of rural and regional Australia.

Eligible regional and rural postcodes for this sector will align for both the SWP and the PLS. Employers in those regions will benefit from having access to a greater pool of workers to address ongoing workforce shortages in the accommodation sector.

A list of eligible postcodes for PALM scheme accommodation employers is available on the employer eligibility page on this website.

What if I am unable to provide workers with enough work?

What if I am unable to provide workers with enough work?

Approved employers are required to report to DESE for the SWP, or the PLF for the PLS, as soon as they become aware that they are not able to meet their obligations to provide Pacific workers with a minimum average of 30 hours of work per week.

Approved employers are required to source appropriate additional work to ensure their obligations to workers are met. Please note that approved employers are also required to seek approval from DESE (for the SWP) or DFAT (for PLS) when sourcing additional work and changing arrangements for workers under the PALM scheme.

How does the PALM scheme skills development program work?

How does the PALM scheme skills development program work?

The PALM scheme skills development program provides workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste with access to training while they are living and working in Australia.

The program benefits both workers and employers by improving workers’ technical knowledge and abilities and increasing general business productivity.

Funding is available for PALM scheme employers participating in both the SWP and the PLS. The funds contribute to the costs of both accredited and non-accredited training for workers, covering employability and life skills, job skills and formal qualifications.

How do employers apply for funding through the PALM scheme skills development program?

How do employers apply for funding through the PALM scheme skills development program?

PALM scheme employers can access funding for skills development for their workers by downloading the application form from the skills development page on this website.

Completed employer applications should be emailed to (training@pacificlabourfacility.com.au) by close of business on the 7th day of each month.

They will then be assessed by the PLF, and employers will be notified of the outcome. For more information, please also email (training@pacificlabourfacility.com.au) or phone (+61 2 3557 7766).

Is the new scheme expected to bring more workers into Australia?

Is the new scheme expected to bring more workers into Australia?

The PALM scheme will be demand driven and uncapped, meaning there is no limit on the number of workers who can arrive, subject to employers demonstrating they have first tried to recruit Australians.

More than 14,000 Pacific and Timorese workers have arrived since recruitments recommenced in September 2020, bringing the total number of workers in Australia to more than 18,000 – the highest number we have ever had.

There are currently 55,000 Pacific and Timorese workers pre-screened and willing to come to Australia to take up jobs.

In August 2021, the Prime Minister committed to scaling up arrivals of Pacific workers in response to labour market needs, with a doubling of worker numbers by March 2022.

What is labour market testing?

What is labour market testing?

Labour market testing is an important part of the recruitment process. It ensures Australian job seekers are given the opportunity to take up a job before it is offered to workers from the Pacific or Timor-Leste under the PALM scheme.

Under the PALM scheme, you must submit evidence of labour market testing for each recruitment application. The validity of labour market testing has been increased and will remain valid for 12 months, which reduces red tape for employers.

Workers can only be recruited where you can demonstrate unmet labour need and where you have genuinely attempted to employ suitable Australian workers first. An Australian worker is someone who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

What support do workers receive under the new PALM scheme?

What support do workers receive under the new PALM scheme?

The PALM scheme will continue to deliver strong protections for workers.

Workers participating in the PALM scheme have the same rights and protections as Australian workers. The Fair Work Ombudsman has an important role in providing information and advice about wages and entitlements, and workplace rights and obligations.

In addition, the respective requirements for SWP and PLS employers to provide worker welfare and wellbeing support will continue under the new arrangements.

DESE contract managers and Pacific labour mobility officers will continue to support SWP workers, and the Community Connections initiative will help to create links between workers and their host communities.

The PLF worker welfare team will provide ongoing support to support PLS workers, and country liaison officers will offer assistance and advice for workers in both programs.

Built-in systems are in place to protect workers and regular check-ins are conducted to ensure that workers’ conditions meet the required standards. A 24-hour PALM scheme telephone hotline ensures that workers can receive help and advice whenever they need it. For more information, please visit the worker support page on this website.

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. If my visa expires while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, can I continue to work in Australia?

I’m currently working in Australia under the SWP/PLS. If my visa expires while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, can I continue to work in Australia?

In response to COVID-19, the Australian Government introduced temporary changes to visa arrangements for affected SWP and PLS workers. These changes allow Pacific and Timorese workers to continue working in Australia during the pandemic, and be redeployed where required.

In addition, PLS workers who have spent 3 years in Australia as a holder of one or more PLS visas can apply for a new PLS visa to remain in Australia for a further 12 months while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.

For information on how to stay in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 website. Or, for general health advice and information about COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health website.

What will these changes mean for our Pacific partners?

What will these changes mean for our Pacific partners?

COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the value of our Pacific labour mobility initiatives, which provide tangible benefits to both our Pacific family and Australian farmers and industries.

The reforms will provide enhanced opportunities for workers to develop skills, earn income and send money home to support their families and communities and the economic growth of their countries.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific labour mobility has provided much needed remittance flows to Pacific countries hit hard by border closures.

As we look forward to a life beyond the pandemic, with an altered labour market and growing demand for Pacific and Timorese workers, the new combined and streamlined arrangements will ensure that the programs are best positioned for future growth.

In September 2021, the government introduced new consultative mechanisms that will foster even deeper connections between Australia and its neighbours, and ensure that Pacific representatives are able to contribute to the strategic, policy and program settings that impact on the new streamlined Pacific labour initiative.

How will employers and other stakeholder interests be represented under the new program?

How will employers and other stakeholder interests be represented under the new program?

New consultative committee arrangements have been established, including a PALM Advisory Group, sector committees and thematic working groups.

These committees include representatives from industry, employers, Pacific diaspora, unions, community organisations and the Australian Government.

The first meeting of the PALM Advisory Group was held on 15 October 2021, and this and the sector committees (agriculture, meat processing, care) are expected to meet quarterly.

Sector committees will provide ongoing mechanisms for key stakeholders to engage with issues relevant to Pacific labour mobility and their area of interest and expertise.