Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme

The number one thing you need to know is all PALM scheme workers have workplace rights and protections like Australian workers do. 

That means the fact sheets on this website about workers’ rights are relevant for you. PALM scheme workers also have the right to join your union, just like other workers in Australia. 

The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme has been in place since April 2022 and brought together the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). 

Workers on the PALM scheme come from nine specific countries to work in Australia on a seasonal or long-term basis.  

The countries covered by the PALM scheme are: 

  • Fiji 
  • Kiribati 
  • Nauru 
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa 
  • Solomon Islands 
  • Timor-Leste 
  • Tonga 
  • Tuvalu 
  • Vanuatu 

For more information about seasonal horticulture work, check out the seasonal farm work fact sheet.

Recent changes to the PALM scheme

Important new changes have been recently introduced to better protect PALM workers. One of these changes is introducing a guaranteed minimum number of hours per week your employer should provide you. These changes will mean you will have more reliable hours, and enough money to support yourself and send home to your family. 

The changes are being introduced bit by bit. Here is how they’ll roll out.

Starting 2 June 2023Starting 1 Oct 2023Starting 1 Jan 2024Starting 1 July 2024
No change for short term or long-term workers – 30 hours per week, averaged over your time in the country for short-term workers; and minimum 30 hours per week for long-term workers.Long-term workers are entitled to full-time hours. Short-term workers entitled to 30 hours per week, averaged over 4 weeks. Short-term workers entitled to 30 hours per week, every week.  

As of 1 October 2023, there’ll also be a safety net for when employers offer workers less than 20 hours per week (e.g. during extreme weather conditions). In those situations, employers must pay for workers’ accommodation and transport costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the PALM scheme, you’ll either be a short-term or a long-term worker.

You are a short-term worker if you’ve been working as part of the PALM scheme for nine months or less. You are a long-term worker if you are working as part of the PALM scheme between one and four years. 

Yes, but not always. They can only take money from you if:

  • You have agreed to it in writing
  • It is for your benefit
  • The written record says the exact amount that will be taken out.

It also must be taken out of your wages before you are paid (a bit like tax).

Some of the reasons why your employer could take money out of your pay will be to cover:

Your employer may also agree with you to take out money from your pay on a regular basis to cover:

  • Accommodation arranged by your employer – this may also include household bills like energy and water 
  • Health insurance 
  • Meals provided by your employer 
  • Transport for getting to and from work.

Learn more about how pay deductions work in Australia and check out the full guide for pay deductions on the PALM scheme website.

Information on pay deductions is also available in Fijian, Samoan, Tuvaluan, Tongan, Bislama, Gilbertese, Tetum, Tok Pison, and Solomon Islands Pidgin 

PALM workers have the same minimum work entitlements as Australian workers. These are the 11 standards outlined in the National Employment Standards.

That means you must be paid superannuation. Superannuation is paid by your employer in addition to your regular wages. Super payments are put into a fund that is meant to be accessed when you retire

Check your payslip to make sure your employer is paying you superannuation. If there is no superannuation showing, then contact your union or the Australian Unions Support Centre. 

Yes, all workers under the PALM scheme are taxed in Australia. It is your employer who will withhold tax from your pay. 

How much you are taxed will depend on whether you’re an Australian resident or a foreign resident. 

If your employer has provided accommodation to you, then it has to have been officially approved and have met certain standards. If any of the following is happening at your provided accommodation, something might be wrong: 

  • Bathrooms shared with more than 10 people 
  • No hot water 
  • No heating and/or cooling (appropriate to whatever climate you’re in) 
  • Crowded rooms 
  • Rent prices far above normal prices for similar accommodation 
  • Broken fixtures that are never repaired 

Cover photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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