Agricultural Wages and Working Time : A Guide
If you employ staff in an agricultural business, the Agricultural Wages Board sets minimum rates of pay and working conditions relating to holiday, sick pay entitlement and tied accommodation which apply to them.
Even where your workers do not qualify as ‘agricultural workers’, they still have minimum statutory entitlements in respect of wages, holiday and sick pay. Below we guide you through the minimum entitlements of your workers in these areas.
From 1 October 2009 the new statutory minimum rates for agricultural workers under the Agricultural Wages Order are:
- Grade 1 (Basic Trainee) - £5.81 per hour
- Grade 2 (Standard Worker) - £6.40 per hour
- Grade 3 (Lead Worker) - £7.04 per hour
- Grade 4 (Craft Worker) – £7.55 per hour
- Grade 5 (Supervisory Grade) - £8.00 per hour
- Grade 6 (Farm Management) - £8.64 per hour
Where your employees are not agricultural workers, or the national minimum wage is higher than the minimum pay stated in the Agricultural Wages Order, then the national minimum wage will apply. From 1 October 2009 the minimum rates are as follows:
- Workers aged 22 and over - £5.80 per hour
- Workers aged 18 – 21 - £4.83 per hour
- Workers aged 16 and 17 - £3.57 per hour
Employers are able to deduct certain benefits from the minimum wage entitlement, including a sum in respect of the provision of accommodation. The deduction which an employer may make from the worker’s agricultural minimum wage in respect of the provision of a house shall not exceed £1.50 per week. For accommodation other than a house, the deduction for accommodation should be no more than £4.51 per day.
Employers must pay all agricultural workers at overtime rates which are stipulated in the Agricultural Wages Order when they:
- work more than 39 basic hours in any week or more than 8 hours on any day;
- work any hours in excess of the normal working hours stipulated in their contract of employment;
- work on a public holiday; and
- work on a day which would normally have been their annual holiday.
In addition to this, workers who were engaged under a contract of employment which started before 1 October 2006 must be paid the overtime rates when they:
- work on a Sunday; and
- work on a Monday before the time they normally start work, after they have started working on the Sunday and have continued working into the Monday.
Bad Weather Payments
If bad weather prevents agricultural workers from being able to work, under the Agricultural Wages Order they should be paid for those hours that they are required to work under their contract of employment.
Holidays and Other Leave
Under the Agricultural Wages Order 2009, a five day a week worker is entitled to 31 days paid leave. Of this, 24 days are the Worker’s “basic holiday entitlement” which cannot be replaced by a payment in lieu and must be taken as time off work. Once they have taken their basic entitlement, the worker may elect to replace the remaining holiday with pay.
All agricultural workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 30 minutes where their daily working time is more than five and a half hours. Young workers, aged between 15 and 18, should be given and uninterrupted rest break of 30 minutes where their working time is more than 4.5 hours in a day. The rest break cannot be taken at the beginning or end of the working period, as the idea is that it constitutes an interim rest.
Where workers take time off work due to illness, their sick pay depends on the terms of their contract of employment. If you run your own sick pay scheme then the worker should be paid in accordance with that. Even if they aren’t entitled to anything under a company scheme, they should still receive either Agricultural Wages Sick Pay (AWSP) or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), if they are eligible.
AWSP provides that agricultural workers should receive at least minimum wage when they are off sick if:
- they have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 52 weeks by the beginning of the period of absence; and
- they tell their employer about their sickness.
AWSP includes a workers entitlement to SSP. Where the period of absence is less than 14 days, the first 3 normal working days do not qualify for sick pay. The total number of days that a worker is entitled to receive Agricultural Workers Sick Pay varies according to the length of time that the worker has been continuously employed when their absence period commences. This is up to a maximum of 26 weeks’ pay when the worker has been employed 59 months or more. Each payment must be for at least the amount that the employer knows is due to be paid to the worker for any normal working days during the sickness absence period.
If the worker is not an agricultural worker, then they will not receive AWSP but may qualify for SSP. This doesn’t start until the fourth day that the worker is off sick, so there is no requirement to pay any sick pay for the first 3 days of absence. Unlike AWSP the worker does not need to be paid for the first 3 days of absence even if they are absent for a period in excess of 14 days. The current rate of SSP is £79.15 per week, and this increases each April.
- Article by Samantha Davis, Head of Employment at Adams & Remers Solicitors. For more information contact Samantha Davis on 01273 403256.
This article is not intended to be a full summary of the law and advice should be sought on specific issues.
This article also appears in Farmers Guardian online / magazine.