Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Cost of labour not just financial

Farmers must take reasonable care to ensure the safety of contractors.
Farmers must take reasonable care to ensure the safety of contractors.

Theresa Murphy

I am a beef farmer close to retiring age and I am finding the extra demands of the silage season difficult to manage. I need to employ some extra farm labour to help me as I have always done the silage cutting myself and do not wish to get in a contractor. What do I need to know from a legal prospective about employing a labourer and what are the tax implications as I have never done this before?

As the Summer is heating up and the silage season is well under way, many farmers will inevitably be finding the extra demands on their time and physical labour difficult to cope with on their own. While contractors are an option for many in an effort to reduce the workload, it can be expensive and this system will not suit all farmers.

Hiring contractors

For those who choose to hire contractors, you will not have to worry about paying 'stamps' etc for contractors, however, you do have to consider factors like have you adequate insurance in place? The landowner is not normally responsible for dangers created by contractors due to the negligent or dangerous practices of the contractor employed. However, the landowner has to have taken all reasonable care in the circumstances. So what do you have to do to ensure that you have taken reasonable care?

The biggest issue arises for the landowner where he knows that the safety measures used by the contractor are not sufficient and/or dangerous.

You should ask around as to the competency of the contractors and observe their safety practices. You should also satisfy yourself that the drivers are over the legal age and are capable and careful. If you know the contractor is not capable of doing the work safely, then you should not hire them.

Employing farm labour

It is important for all employers to be aware that the costs of an employee are not just financial. Being an employer means you are responsible for providing certain rights for your employees and proper working conditions.


Financial duties

While wage rates are generally the result of negotiation between the employer and employee, there are some restrictions on the minimum pay rates. The national minimum wage for an experienced adult employee is €9.15 per hour since January 1, 2016.

An experienced adult employee is an employee who has been in employment of any kind for two years over the age of 18. Exception to this minimum rule are employees under 18 years. They are entitled to €6.41 per hour, which is 70pc of the minimum wage, since January 1, 2016. Employees under 18 but over 15 years of age cannot work for more than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. They cannot work outside of the hours between 6am and 10pm.

Bear in mind that it may affect the insurance for these young workers if they are driving for too long without breaks. Failure to pay the appropriate minimum wage can result in a fine of €952 for every offence.

Holidays

The general rule is that an employee is entitled to eight per cent of the hours worked in a year, up to a maximum of four working weeks per year. Where a worker is ill during annual leave and produces a doctor's cert, the days which have been certified as sick days should not be counted as holidays.

Employer's duties

Employers must register all employees paid more than €8 per week under the PAYE system with revenue. If you register with revenue online at www.ros.ie, you can easily fill this in yourself.

You will be required to deduct emergency tax for an initial period and PAYE, PRSI, USC and local property tax if applicable. As an employer, you will have to pay employer's PRSI based on the level of pay to the employee. In the case of dismissal, an employee who has been working for 16 weeks is entitled to a minimum notice period. An employee who has been employed for two years or more, continuously, is entitled to redundancy payment of two week's pay for each year of continuous work and one further week's pay. For those working between 13 weeks and two years, one week's notice is required for dismissal.

Safety & working conditions

An employer has a duty to take reasonable care for the employee's safety, however the duty is limited to "reasonable" care. Factors like the age and experience of the employee are taken into consideration. It is likely that the more experience and knowledge the employee has, the less care the employer would be expected to take of them.

Every employee is entitled to a written copy of the terms and conditions of their employment and this can be a great way to avoid potential problems between employers and employees. Both parties will also be clear on what exactly is expected of them and could save difficulties later.

When it comes to employing farm labourers, pay particular attention to their age and ability and make sure they are capable of carrying out a task safely before allowing them to do so.

Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Galway

Indo Farming