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MBIE’s dairy farm employee position statement positive

8 May 2014

MBIE’s dairy farm employee position statement positive

With the employment practices of dairy farmers in the media spotlight, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Labour Inspectorate’s newly released position statement, is to be followed up by both Federated Farmers and DairyNZ.

“Dairy farmers can expect a joint Industry Best Practice Guidance note next week,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers employment spokesperson.

“Both Federated Farmers and DairyNZ endorses MBIE’s common sense position statement, which not only reminds employers about the Minimum Wage Act 1983, but reminds them ‘seasonal averaging’ has gone the same way as 245-T.

“Bearing in mind many farm employers pay above the minimum wage for entry level roles, it reminds employers the law stipulates that every employee must be paid at least the minimum wage, for every hour they work.

“We genuinely applaud MBIE’s decision to review the Minimum Wage Order to include a fortnightly minimum wage rate in the order.

“Farm employees tell us they want to be paid consistent wages but the Minimum Wage Order’s current week-by-week focus is outdated. It does not reflect the modern rostered environment on today’s farms.

“What MBIE is doing will benefit many other industries outside of the primary industries.

“The Statement addresses the biggest concern I had with what MBIE recently found and that was widespread failure to properly record time and holidays. This makes any employer’s position indefensible and exposes farm businesses to fines of up to $20,000.

“As an overwhelming number of farm employees receive accommodation, the Statement says that accommodation costs can be treated as “wages” under the Minimum Wage Act.

“While employers and employees may agree that accommodation costs can be deducted before the payment of wages, accommodation costs should be clearly detailed and reasonable.

“Record keeping is vital and needs to be kept separate from the employment agreement, or is able to be separated.

“Given there are considerable benefits to working on-farm, from food to firewood, the statement clarifies that such benefits do not form part of the employee’s wages. Instead, if the employee agrees, it can be deducted from wages at an agreed cost.

“Both Federated Farmers and DairyNZ know our guys need to seriously lift their game because if you are deficient you will be done like a dog’s dinner.

“If you are a Federated Farmers member, our industry standard employment contract costs just $60 ($300 for non-members). While there’s GST on top, the contract includes comprehensive notes covering the minimum wage, holidays act and the like.

“On Monday, we released a more advanced Employers Pack providing all the information, requirements, forms and agreements that any first time employer needs in agriculture.

“In light of the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill, our employers pack contains a new drug and alcohol policy as well as an outline of the correct disciplinary process.

“For members of the Federation, this more detailed version costs a mere $120 with GST on top. A very small price to pay considering the penalties and bad press at stake.

“If farm employers are members of the Federation, they can further call 0800 327 646 (0800 FARMING) to access the Federation’s free employment law help line. If you are in doubt just call us,” Katie Milne concluded.

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