Employment agreements crucial this Gypsy Day
“In an industry renowned for seasonal averaging, it is important dairy farmers focus on ensuring all current and new
employees have the correct employment agreements, especially with the introduction of new employment laws in April,”
says Melissa Vining, Agri Human Resources Consultant with Progressive Consulting, the human resources division of Crowe
With Gypsy Day just around the corner, it marks the start of a new season when farms are bought and sold, and new
sharemilking contracts signed.
“Dairy farmers need to ensure employment agreements are understood and agreed upon, to make certain that the employer
and employee are both fully protected and aware of their rights. This is particularly important this year with
amendments being made to the Employment Relations Act 2000,” Vining outlines.
The amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000 ensures that hours are clearly defined and agreed upon in employment
agreements, and if there is a requirement to be available in busy periods, such as calving, it needs to be documented
along with adequate compensation for the employee.
“With the amount of hours significantly varying for dairy farm workers across the season, it is a tough field for
employers to navigate, and there is a need for flexibility and good advice,” advises Vining.
Vining continues, “Previously farmers have defaulted to using seasonal averaging, as it provides the employee with a
dependable income when work hours are low; however, it can often leave workers short of meeting minimum wage
requirements during the high season of calving when they work long days.”
“A lot of farmers are simply unaware of their obligations,” Vining states. “The amendment means employers must not only
pay at least the minimum wage for every hour worked; they must also ensure hours of work are clearly defined, with
adequate compensation outside of these hours if they are required to be available.”
With many farmers taking on new employees, an important issue to note is that if employers do not have the employment
agreements signed prior to the first day of work, the 90-day trial period is not valid for the employer. This trial
period can only be used on new employees.
Farmers who have employees leaving over the Gypsy Day weekend also need to ensure they calculate and pay the final
salary including any holiday pay within the agreed pay period.
“One of the key messages for when you are saying goodbye or hiring staff is to make sure you have a good understanding
of your obligations as an employer. Get professional advice if you’re unsure, and put processes in place that support
best practice and are pragmatic at managing your farming business,” Vining advises.