Farmers in danger of offering illegal salaries to long-hour workers

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Farmers paying salaries instead of hourly rates could be unknowingly offering below minimum wage, warns agriculture employment service.

It’s because of the latest increase to wages, announced this 1 April. It saw the National Living Wage for those aged 21 and over increase to £11.44p/h and the rate for 18-20 increase to £8.60p/h.

Wages for workers aged 16-17 and apprentices have also risen to £6.40p/h.

This means farmers paying salaries to employees that are working more than the standard 37.5- to 40-hour work week run the risk of paying them below the legal minimum.

Paul Harris, CEO at staff specialist REAL Success says there could be serious fines for businesses or employers found doing this.

“For someone working a 55-hour week, which is common in the agricultural sector, the minimum wage for someone over 21 years old would be £32,718.40,” he says.

Paul Harris © REAL Success

“But for someone working 37.5 hours a week, which is more of a standard week, the minimum wage would be £22,308.”

However this amount could be offset if the job provided also includes accommodation.

Along with the wage increase, the government announced new rates of £9.99 a day and £69.93 a week for lodgings given to workers by employers.

No other benefits, like meals or the use of vehicles, can be used towards the minimum wage.

“[The offset rate] can be added to the salary if the person is not contributing to the accommodation, and assuming the person lives in the accommodation full-time,” Paul explains.

“The issue is, the industry needs to face up to the fact that people cannot be working for 10 days on and two days off, with 10-hour days. People need to be working shorter weeks.”

In the past, research by Farmers Weekly has shown that on average, farmers work 65-hours weeks – well above the 37 hour average.

Information on wages can be found here, alongside the accommodation offset rate.

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