There are key issues employers need to be aware of when the Agricultural Wages Order ceased to exist on 1st October but for all queries please seek independent legal advice. In summary these are as follows:
- You cannot just start paying the National Minimum Wage (NMW) from 1st October to existing workers – employees will have ‘accrued rights’ which will continue to apply.
- The NMW categorises employees purely on the basis of their age, rather than the AWO which categorised on the basis of ability, skills, qualification and job duties. The NMW is reviewed annually on 1st October.
- New workers employed on or after 1st October have NO ‘accrued rights’ and are subject to the NMW – however differing salary and terms and conditions of employment at the same business could leave you open to equal pay claims and discrimination claims. There has to be a sound business case to offer different workers different contracts.
- Keep records of everything, put everything in writing, and keep hold of the records – employees can claim for a breach of contract and unpaid wages for up to 6 years from the date of the offence.
- You should consult and get consent from your employees for all changes to their salary, working conditions or contract.
- Putting people on a salary rather than an hourly wage needs to be treated with care, as those who work very long hours for example during lambing or harvest could end up being paid the equivalent of less than the minimum wage per hour. Keep records of all the hours worked.
- Sick pay under the AWO was generous and workers may be unhappy that statuary sick pay is much less.
- The Working Time Directive sets a maximum working week at 48 hours but employees can opt-out of this.