Kondinin Group Media Release

Getting a grip on farm IR responsibilities

Farmers need to be aware of their responsibilities when hiring and retaining farm workers, including their obligations under the Pastoral Award 2010 according to Kondinin Group.

In the latest edition of Farming Ahead magazine Kondinin Group, in partnership with BlandsLaw, provides growers with information on the main considerations surrounding farm industrial relations.

Report author Danica Leys of BlandsLaw says farmers need to familarise themselves with concepts such as those dealt with in the 2010 Pastoral Award, the new Paid Parental Leave scheme and the Unfair Dismissal Small Business Code.

“Farmers probably don’t give much thought to the risk of industrial disputes within their business,” Ms Leys said.

“But with sowing about to get underway, now is a good time to review certain aspects of your farm’s employment terms and conditions to ensure an industrially-successful 2011.”

The Pastoral Award was created under the Fair Work Act and implemented at the start of 2010. All employers involved in broadacre, farming and livestock operations, pig breeding and raising, poultry farming and shearing operations must comply with the Award.

“While fairly comprehensive, understanding the contents of this Award is important,” Ms Leys said.

“For example, under the contents of this award if you ask an employee to perform work that would normally be classified as a ‘higher duty’ for more than two hours during a day or shift, then the employee is entitled to the higher minimum wage for the entire day or shift.”

Another common area of confusion is extra entitlements such as meal, travel and accommodation allowances, as well as special allowances.

“One of which is the allowance for the jetting or spraying of sheep.”

“Workers engaged in this work are entitled to an additional 17 per cent of the ordinary daily rate.”

Another important farm industrial relations issue is whether farm workers are engaged as an employee, or an independent contractor.

“A farmer might think they have contracted the services of farm worker only to find that the nature of the work and the manner in which it is carried out is more akin to a employee-type relationship.”

“Factors that distinguish a contractor from an employee, include whether they are being paid for the hours worked or the end result. Another important distinction is that a farmer has complete control over how, when and where an employee’s work is to be carried out, whereas with a contractor this is not necessarily the case.”

“The classification of a farm worker is important when it comes to determining considerations such as remuneration, entitlements and leave.”

The report in the March edition of Farming Ahead magazine also explains Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFA) — a simplified arrangement between an employer and employee and may be a more suitable option.

“IFAs allow employers, in negotiation with employees, to implement a contract that offers a standard hourly rate in place of overtime and penalty rates, allowances and leave loading,” Ms Leys said.

“To implement this type of agreement it must pass the ‘Better off Overall’ test which compares the employee’s financial benefits under the IFA with the benefits under the award. It is also important to note that an employer cannot ask a prospective employee to agree to an IFA as a condition of employment.”

For more information on Farm IR Responsibilities visit www.farmingahead.com.au

Established during 1955, Kondinin Group is committed to helping farmers. With a large and diverse membership across Australia, Kondinin Group continues to invest in agriculture by providing members with independent, reliable and practical information.

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