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Agricultural workers’ employment status

Lodders’ agricultural employment law specialist, Faye Reynolds, explains the importance of being clear on agricultural workers’ employment status.

Those running farming businesses have historically been used to taking on casual or temporary labour according to the demands of the business and the season, or to having the ‘lad from the village’ along to help, only to find he is still there many years later – but is that person self-employed, an employee or classed as a worker?

The difference in employment status is significant, and getting it wrong can be very costly for business owners. The nature of someone’s employment status is important, as it affects the legal rights and benefits that they are entitled to.

Agricultural workers’ employment status

Someone who is classed as ‘a worker’ is entitled to some of the same rights as an employee, such as holiday pay and sick pay. However, workers do not have the full employment protection that employees have, such as the right to redundancy pay, and the right not to be unfairly dismissed after 2 years’ service.

If that person is clearly a self-employed contractor, then these issues don’t arise.

Formal documentation for employees

Often, the way agricultural businesses source their staffing needs means that the arrangement is not formally documented, however, the absence of a contract or written record of terms does not necessarily mean an individual will not be an employee or worker, but it does leave plenty of scope for argument and debate.

Disputes regarding status can be brought before an employment tribunal, which would apply a number of tests to determine the employment status, such as the day-to-day reality of the working relationship, and the manner in which the individual worked for the agricultural/farming business.

Where an individual uses the farm’s equipment, tools, and vehicles, and it is the only business they work for, this can be an indicator as to whether they are either an employee or worker, as opposed to self-employed, however, this is not definitive

It should be remembered that there is a duty to record the terms of a person’s employment in any event.


As is often the case, by the time there is a dispute, it is too late to do anything about it and the risks of time, costs, and potential awards or settlement payments will have arisen.

Businesses should stop and consider the nature of the team working on the farm, and the nature of their role, before a situation arises. If new help or staff are being brought in, they should spend a bit of time documenting the arrangement properly so everyone is clear from the start. A bit of advice can help you correctly identify the employment status of those working for you and head off problems down the line.

More information

Faye is a solicitor in the Lodders Agricultural Sector team. If you need any advice on agricultural employment status or any other agricultural employment-related matter, please contact Faye Reynolds on 01242 229093, or via email.

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Get in touch...

If you need any advice on agricultural employment status or any other agricultural employment-related matter, please contact Faye Reynolds on 01242 229093, or via email.