Agricultural wage negotiations in new timeframe

Scottish Land & Estates and NFU Scotland have welcomed the decision by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) to change the effective date of annual changes to the Scottish Agricultural Minimum Wage rate.

The SAWB has taken the decision to delay its annual wage negotiations until later in the year in order to align it with the new timeframe for the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage changes. This means that no new Agricultural Wages Order will be published until 1 April 2017.

The SAWB normally meets in June each year to negotiate the minimum agricultural wage and other minimum terms of conditions to take effect from 1 October. This date used to coincide with the annual change in National Minimum Wage.

With the introduction of the National Living Wage, which is set on the 1 April each year, the Government has decided that the National Minimum Wage will also be set from the 1 April each year therefore bringing the timing of changes to both in to line.

However, while there have been no agricultural wage negotiations this year, employers and employees are reminded that the minimum rate of pay for agricultural workers cannot fall below either the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage.

With effect from 1 October 2016, the National Minimum Wage for all workers aged up to and including 24 years of age – and in the first 26 weeks of employment – will rise from its current level of £6.70 per hour to £6.95 per hour. That means, in effect, that there will be a new minimum agricultural wage rate from that date.

Katy Dickson, Senior Policy Officer at Scottish Land & Estates and Scott Walker, Chief Executive at NFU Scotland said, in a joint statement: “Our members welcome this common sense approach which avoids six monthly changes each and every year to the agricultural wage rates.

“However, we believe this situation once again is an indication that, while the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board used to serve a valuable purpose, it is now no longer required. It is an unnecessary extra layer of bureaucracy, which can lead to confusion for both employers and employees.

“Scottish Land & Estates and NFU Scotland fully support employees being well paid and offered good working conditions. With the introduction of the new National Living Wage there is no longer a need for agriculture to be singled out as the only industry with a Board that sets minimum rates of pay.

“Discussions on rates of pay are best left to individual employers and the employees that work for them. These talks can then properly take into account the differing conditions which operate in different farming enterprises and different businesses.”

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