Back

Agricultural Workers in Wales

On 25 June 2013 the Agricultural Wages Board (“AWB”) was abolished by the UK Government. The AWB had the power to make orders to set minimum wage rates, sick pay, holiday entitlement and other minimum terms and conditions of employment for agricultural workers in England and Wales. The last order made by the AWB, the Agricultural Wages (England and Wales) Order 2012 (“AWO 2012”), was revoked with effect from 1 October 2013.

Welsh_Farmer.jpg

The National Assembly for Wales did not agree with the abolition of the AWB and sought to pass legislation which would permit it to make agricultural wages orders in Wales. Following the decision of the Supreme Court that the Welsh Government has the right to determine such matters in Wales, the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014 (“AS(W)A”) became law on 30 July 2014.

Section 2 of the AS(W)A requires the Welsh Ministers to set up an Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales to carry out various functions in relation to the agricultural sector including promoting careers in agriculture, preparing draft agricultural wages orders, consulting on such orders and submitting them to the Welsh Ministers for approval.

Section 3 of the AS(W)A enables the Welsh Ministers, after consultation, to make agricultural wages orders setting minimum terms and conditions of employment for agricultural workers. The first consultation finished on 31 October 2014 and a new agricultural wages order is to be made in due course.

Importantly, the AS(W)A also provides that, notwithstanding the revocation of the AWO 2012, the provisions within the Order relating to workers’ terms and conditions will continue to apply to agricultural workers in Wales from 1 October 2013 until the Welsh Ministers make a new agricultural wages order.

So What Does this Mean?

Agricultural workers in England are only subject to the provisions AWO 2012 if they commenced employment before 1 October 2013 and their contracts of employment have not been varied to disapply them. Those who employ agricultural workers in England are not bound by the AWO 2012 in relation to any employees who commenced employment on or after 1 October 2013: they have been free to employ new agricultural workers on whatever terms they choose, subject to those terms complying with general employment legislation such as the Working Time Regulations 1998, the Equality Act 2010 and National Minimum Wage regulations.

Those who employ agricultural workers in Wales will continue to be bound by the provisions within the AWO 2012 until the first agricultural wages order is prepared by the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales and approved by the Welsh Ministers.

In the case of cross border farms, where there will be uncertainty as to whether the AS(W)A rules will apply, there may be some complex legal issues to consider, and farmers in that situation, in particular, should seek legal advice

For further information and for advice relating to agricultural workers’ rights and other employment law issues, please contact me (T: 01952 211 025; E: jennifer.gibson@lblaw.co.uk) or Will Morse (T: 01432 377152; E: will.morse@lblaw.co.uk).