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Seasonal Workforce: Terms and Conditions – A Practical Guide for Workers and their Employees

6 July 2021

As Scotland prepares for its peak period for employing seasonal workers and with the aims of the Scottish Government to create a Fair Work Nation in mind; this guide aims to equip employers and employees alike with the necessary information to create a fair and equal workplace for all in Scotland.

 

Pay and Benefits

The minimum hourly rate due to all agricultural employees from 1st of April 2021 is £8.91/hour.  Workers are entitled to a £1.32/hour top up on the aforementioned hourly rate if they have qualifications in the sector they are working in.

Eligibility for overtime payments depends on the length of time employees have been working with that employer and the number of hours worked:

  • For workers with up to 26 weeks continuous service, overtime must be paid when a worker works for more than 8 hours on any day or for more than 48 hours in any week.
  • For workers with more than 26 weeks service, overtime must be paid when a worker works for more than 8 hours on any day or for more than 39 hours in any week.

Overtime is calculated at 1.5 times the minimum hourly rate to which the worker is entitled.

The provision of weather protective clothing for employees and the replacement of any clothing that is no longer fit for use is the responsibility of the employer, not the employee.

Agricultural wages: A Guide for Workers and Employers is a useful reference document on pay, working hours and benefits for seasonal workers.  This guide is available in Bulgarian and Polish should employers wish to make a copy available to their workforce in their native language.

Also available is an abbreviated document covering the key features in Russian, Belarusian, Moldovan, Romanian, Ukrainian, Nepalese, Latvian and Kazakhstani

Copies of the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Order & its Guide are available from
Agricultural Wages & Rural Engagement Branch, D Spur, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD

Tel: 0131 244 9750 – Email: sawb@gov.scot

Sick Pay and Covid

From April 2021, in normal circumstances, employees who earn on average at least £120/week before tax are entitled to £96.35/week of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the fourth day of sickness if they have been off sick for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days) and have told their employer that they are sick within any deadline the employer has set or within seven days.  If required, SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks.

Sick pay has become increasingly relevant since the Covid-19 pandemic began.  It is important to note that the rules around sick pay in relation to Coronavirus are different and workers must receive SSP from their first day of self-isolation if they are isolating as a result of any of the following:

§  Having coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms §  Someone in their ‘household’ having symptoms
§  Underlying health conditions placing them in the shielding category §  A Doctor or NHS 111 instructing them to self-isolate.

Employers can receive support to reclaim two weeks of Statutory Sick Pay if claiming for a worker who is eligible for SSP due to coronavirus.  This support is through the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and employers can use this link to check if they are eligible.

The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) can offer support on COVID-19 testing arrangements and self-isolation.  For details of their Helpline, please click here.

 

Accommodation

From 1st of April 2021, any deduction an employer makes from a wage in respect of accommodation other than a house (caravans or static homes) shall not exceed £8.36/day.  The deduction must only be made for each day in the week that living accommodation is provided.

The accommodation itself must be clean, wind and watertight and have met all legislative safety checks such as gas, electricity, and water tests for legionnaires disease.  To avoid worker exploitation, washing and toilet facilities should be provided on site.  As a simple rule of thumb when providing accommodation for temporary workers, would you or a family member be willing to live in it if you arrived to start a new job in a potentially unfamiliar country?  If not, don’t expect someone else to live in it just because they are a temporary worker.

If you are providing caravan accommodation for seasonal agricultural/horticultural/forestry workers then it is permissible to do this without a local authority licence, under Schedule 1 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.  A similar derogation applies under Part 5, Class 16 of The Town, and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 with regards planning permission.  Key points to note are that the derogation only applies for seasonal workers, living in caravans on the land where they work and only for the duration of the harvesting season for which they have been employed to work.  Breaching any one of these three points, will mean that the General Permitted Development rights no longer applies in the letter of the law, and a site licence/planning permission would be required.

 

Grievance Procedures and Reporting Channels

It is beneficial if employers provide some mechanism for workers to raise concerns, problems or complaints within the workplace. This can be arranged through a formal mechanism or often a WhatsApp group can be highly effective. A proactive approach from employers about grievances will boost worker morale and ensure they feel valued within the team. Small measures like this can mean workers are more likely to return year on year.

Home Office Guidance states that there must be procedures in place to enable workers to report concerns to their visa sponsors. However, often workers struggle to make contact with operator helplines due to their limited availability or a lack of translation.

Issues with a lack of reporting channels for seasonal workers were highlighted in a 2021 report by Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and Fife Migrants Forum. The article, ‘Our Seasonal Workforce: Health and Safety and Worker Welfare’ covers the other areas highlighted in the report.

Given the short time that workers remain in the UK, without adequate reporting channels, grievances may not get aired and resolved affecting present and future workers on the seasonal workers visa scheme.

As a result, The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) now offer a dedicated and confidential helpline, 0300 111 4160, that allows seasonal workers to discuss concerns or report issues.  The helpline is open weekdays: 5pm to 8pm and weekends: 10:30am to 2pm making it easier for workers or employers of workers to call.

If a worker believes that they are not being paid in accordance with the Agricultural Wages Order, then they should contact the Secretary, Scottish Agricultural Wages Board, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh EH11 3XD, Tel No: 0131 244 9749/9750. E-mail: sawb@gov.scot

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