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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Should farm businesses have a social media policy?

Tesco has one, law firms have them, but few farm businesses do. Should they?
Farms are one of the most dangerous places to work.
Don't tweet and drive!
 (Don't worry, this is a mock-up, courtesy of Lamma 2013)
Whereas, for office-based businesses, social media 'issues' tend to be about using work time for keeping up with news from your friends and family, for farm businesses another issue comes to the fore: safety. Machinery and messaging your mates don't mix; handling livestock and your handset at the same time is a recipe for disaster.
How can farm businesses lay down some guidelines to make sure safety isn't compromised? One answer is to have a social media policy that sets out clearly where the lines are drawn, and to refer to it when necessary.
Our employment and agriculture bods have put their heads together and drawn up a template social media policy for farm businesses, where workers have their own devices but do not have access to the farm’s own computer systems. Its main focus is on the health and safety aspects of smartphone use around farm machinery and livestock.
You can download the template here.
Clearly, one size does not fit all situations and we strongly recommend that you review the draft against the specific needs of your own business to make sure it works for you.
If you would like further advice about this policy – how it can be adapted to your specific circumstances, when and how it can be introduced, or what to do in the case of serious or repeated breaches, please get in touch with Maz Dannourah on 01733 898967 (

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Designation of flood risk management features - one year on

It is almost a year since the 'designation of features' elements of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 came into force. The Act itself came out of the Pitt Review that followed the widespread floods of 2007. One of Pitt's recommendations was that local flood authorities (and similar bodies, like IDBs) should list and take steps to protect physical assets which are relied on for flood (and coastal erosion) risk management but are privately owned.

This designation process is now happening. It is estimated that over 60,000 physical features e.g. walls, embankments and other 'raised features' (mounds, banks etc.) could be available for designation. Once a feature is designated, it will be registered in the local land charges register. Owners will then need to seek the consent of the authority before altering, removing or replacing the asset.

If you are the owner of a structure or feature, you:-

•  will be consulted in writing before the asset is designated; and

•  have a right to appeal against the initial designation.

'Owner' includes the relevant landowner or, if different, the person responsible for managing or controlling the structure or feature (e.g. depending on the terms of the tenancy, a tenant in occupation).

We are not aware of a raft of letters going out from local authorities, IDBs or the Environment Agency over the last year notifying owners of potential designations. Resources are tight and there are plenty of other demands on these bodies. However, as local flood risk management strategies are reviewed, it may be that there will be a move to get these private assets registered.

If you receive a letter talking about the Designation of third party structures and features for flood and coastal erosion risk management purposes, let Julie Robinson know in the first instance. There are opportunities to appeal if you believe your particular feature should not be designated.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

All change at the Agricultural Land Tribunal

Last month we saw the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in England. This month we have seen the demise of the seven agricultural land tribunals in England, specialist bodies known to few outside the farming community. Agricultural land tribunals have been a one-stop shop for a various landlord/tenant and land drainage disputes for over 50 years.

But in contrast with what has happened with the Ag Wages Board, the functions of the ALTs are not being abolished. They have simply been transferred to a new umbrella tribunal, the snappily-named First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)

Below is a short Q&A.