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Agricultural Workers

In addition to most of the generally applicable pieces of employment legislation there are additional rules covering agricultural workers.

In terms of pay, agricultural workers in Wales, and those employed as agricultural workers in England prior to the 1st October 2013, are normally entitled to be paid the minimum rates set out in the Agricultural Wages Order. Under that Order the Agricultural Wages Board had the power to direct that certain holidays may be taken, and also to determine the rate of holiday pay. Agricultural employers are prevented from trying to agree rates of pay or holiday entitlements that contravene orders made by the Agricultural Wages Board. Any breach of the agricultural order may also amount to a criminal offence.

Agricultural workers are now entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (or for those aged 25 years and upwards, the National Living Wage) which is subject to an annual increase, usually taking effect on the 1st October each year. From the 1st October 2011 the minimum agricultural wage for a grade 2 standard worker was £6.77 per hour (with a higher overtime rate).Between the 1st October 2008 and the 30th September 2009 the hourly rate for the same grade was £6.26 per hour.The rate was then higher than the National Minimum Wage.

The rate from the 1st October 2012 for Grade 1 workers over compulsory school age is £6.21. For Grade 2 workers (standard workers) the minimum hourly rate is £6.96. There are designated rates for each of the six grades identified in the Agricultural Wages Order 2012. The highest grade, grade 6 (farm management grade), has an hourly rate of £9.40. Different rates have been payable to "flexible" workers (see Government website for the agricultural wages rates). The Government has announced that once the National Minimum Wage rates exceed the Agricultural Order rates, that the National Minimum Wage rates will be payable where the rate exceeds that under the Agricultural Wages Order. As at April 2017 there are still a number of Grades which are entitled to a rate of pay in excess of the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage.

There are also special rules on sick pay that apply to agricultural workers (see Government website for details).

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 abolished the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales, and sets out the repeals of the structures for the setting of terms and conditions of agricultural workers. However, the current Agricultural  Wages (England and Wales) Order 2012, which sets out the applicable agricultural minimum wage and the basic minimum overtime rates, as well as other terms and conditions for agricultural workers, remained in force until October 2013.

As an area of business that has often relied quite significantly on foreign workers, agricultural employers must be aware of the statutory obligation on employers to ensure that they are employing people that are entitled to work in the UK. In particular individuals who are from countries that have recently joined the European Union who want to work more than one month in the UK need to register with the Home Office “Worker Registration Scheme”Work Registration Scheme as soon as they find work.

 

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