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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts - impacts for agriculture

As you will have seen from our general employment update there are proposals from Vince Cable (Business Secretary) to ban exclusivity clauses in “zero hours contracts”.

Whilst zero hours contracts have received a pretty bad press over recent months they have been an important part of the way in which farm businesses have dealt with seasonal peaks of activity at harvest and other times.

The exclusivity clause operates so as to prevent the employee from having a job elsewhere whilst on your books. When you are busy this is important – the weather can demand that you need everyone in and if one member of the team is working elsewhere that might have a significant impact.

In standard form harvest contracts there will typically be an exclusivity clause. The most obvious solution that comes to mind would be to delete any exclusivity clause but with farm businesses making an enhanced “sales pitch” when recruiting so that harvest staff feel they want to commit. We need to see the fine print of the promised legislation; only then we will be able to advise in detail what changes ag and hort businesses need to make to their paperwork and practices.
If you would like further information about zero hour contracts, or would like advice on other employment matters,  please contact our employment specialists Phil Cookson, Maz Dannourah or John Cameron.



Saturday, 7 June 2014

Safety on farm: should you have a social media policy?

Farms are one of the most dangerous places to work. According to the Health & Safety Executive, while just over 1 in 100 GB workers work in agriculture, the sector accounts for about 1 in 5 fatal injuries to workers.
Does the rise in social media use add to the risk? 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 the safety issue is at the fore. Machinery and messaging your mates don't mix; handling livestock and your handset at the same time is a recipe for disaster. 

For those of you thinking about taking on extra workers over the summer months, how can you 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. Introducing it as part of a new starter's induction would make people aware of it from the outset.

Members of our employment and agriculture teams 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 etc. 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 01775 842597 or by email.