Scottish farmers urged to put employment contracts in place

NFU Scotland is reminding agricultural employers to ensure they have an up to date contract of employment in place for employees. The plea comes on the day that the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) announces new minimum wage rates for the sector.

The Union has been working with several members recently where had employee contracts been kept up to date then disputes may not have arisen.

The message on contracts comes on the back of today’s confirmation from SAWB that the minimum rate of pay for agricultural workers with more than 26 weeks continuous employment will increase by 15p per hour to £7.14 from 1 October, 2014 – bringing the minimum wage for a 39 hour week to £278.46.

In issuing the reminder on contracts, NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Policy Manager Gemma Thomson commented:

“The main advantage of ensuring that a contract is in place is that in the event of a dispute between the employer and employee, terms are clear and the process for dealing with a dispute is known by all from the outset of the disagreement.

“The benefits of a contract is that the conditions of employment are clearly laid out and understood by both parties. An employment contract prevents misunderstanding. When things are working well the last thing anyone does is refer to a contract but when a dispute arises having a clear understanding of the terms of employment can reduce the potential for lengthy and expensive conflicts.”

Commenting on this year’s SAWB award, NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said:

“From 1 October the minimum agricultural wage rates will again rise. Now is the right time for farm businesses to check that their wage policy is compliant with the agricultural minimum wage rates and that employees are being paid at least the minimum hourly rate for each hour they work. While most employees are paid substantially above the minimum there are some where the minimum rate is their effective wage rate.

“For those in the first 26 weeks of employment we were able to negotiate with the Wages Board a minimum agricultural wage rate that is in line with the national minimum wage.

“For those who have been employed for more than 26 weeks the Wages Board continues to insist on a premium rate for agriculture workers above that which applies to all other employees in Scotland.

“We expect the role of SAWB to be reviewed next year and will be consulting with our members in advance of this review to see what they think is the appropriate mechanism for determining the wage rates and conditions for farm employees.”

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