10 HR essentials to keep you legal
Our latest article on HR advice for farmers was featured in this month’s British Dairying magazine.
In this first, in a series of articles relating to people in dairy farming, we have asked Paul Harris from REAL Success to provide some essential guidance on the aspects of employment law tips, ideas and essential steps we need to take to become an employer of choice. In this first article, he explains why it’s important to get your HR policies and procedures in place and offers 10 tips for your HR essentials.
“It can take a little time to ensure your business is set up correctly” says Paul “but you may find even more time is needed if things go wrong. Having up-to-date employment contracts can ensure you cover most of the important contractual issues, but it’s also important to be aware of other issues that may arise during the period that someone is employed in your business.”
Here are 10 areas to consider:
- The Right to Work. All employees, including those who hold a UK passport, must be checked to ensure they have the right to work in the UK before they start work on a farm. The seasonal workers VISA scheme has additional checks and rules to follow. Copies of all the necessary documentation must be retained. A Right to Work checklist can be downloaded from the resources section of the REAL Success website.
- Statement of Terms and Conditions. All employees must be provided with the principal terms and conditions of their employment on their first day of working on a farm. This must then be followed up within two months by the wider terms and conditions, often included in an employment contract. We recommend that the employee receives their full employment contract (which contains certain procedures like disciplinary procedures and sick pay rules) on their first day.
- Probation period. We recommend a three-month probation period, during which both parties have one week’s notice to terminate the contract. Once the probation period is completed, the contract should outline the full notice period from either side.
- Minimum wage. All employees are entitled to a minimum wage, including casual part-time and agency workers. Check out the government website for the current rates for the national living wage (anyone over 23) and the national minimum wage (for those of at least school leaving age). There are specific amounts for apprentices. If a salary is paid rather than an hourly rate, it’s important to keep a track of hours worked as too many hours worked may reduce the effective hourly rate to below the minimum wage for the person’s age.
- Holidays. The minimum legal requirement is 28 days per year for a full-time employee. For many people, that’s 20 working days plus eight days Bank Holiday with part-timers entitled to the same holiday on a pro-rata basis. Staff still accrue holiday whilst they’re off sick, or on maternity leave. It’s not possible to withhold holiday during those periods.
- Statutory sick pay. Employees may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks. The amount payable is changed by the government so it’s important to check the current payment due. Note that some agricultural workers who were employed before October 2013 are entitled to different amounts and conditions.
- Workplace Pension. All employers must provide a workplace pension scheme and make contributions into it. This is called ‘automatic enrolment’. There are exceptions (earning less than £10,000, aged under 22, or a worker doesn’t ordinarily work in the UK) but check out the pension regulator website for full details.
- Health & Safety. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, employees have to themselves and to each other and certain self-employed have towards themselves and others. These rules also apply to anyone working from home.
- Pregnancy, Maternity & Paternity Leave and Pay. A pregnant employee is entitled to time off for antenatal care, which can include parenting classes and relaxation classes. New and adoptive parents are entitled to statutory maternity (or adoption) leave providing they meet the qualifying criteria. To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay an employee must have worked for an employer continuously for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. Statutory maternity pay and statutory adoption pay are paid at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks. For the remaining 33 weeks, it’s then set at a particular level, or 90% of the employee’s average earnings if that’s lower. Statutory paternity pay is also paid at a specific level, or 90% of the average weekly earnings if lower. Both leaves must be taken within 56 days of the birth or adoption.
- Working Hours. All workers over 18 are entitled to one day, (24 hours) off per week and to work no more than 48 hours in a week. It’s possible to opt out of this ruling as long as it’s clearly stated in the employment contract. Younger workers under 18 years of age, must work no more than eight hours a day and no more than 40 hours per week. They are not permitted to opt out of these limits even if they want to.