Advice: It’s better to be safe than sorry with casual workers

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Advice: It’s better to be safe than sorry with casual workers


It is important for all employers to be aware that the costs of an employee are not just financial.
It is important for all employers to be aware that the costs of an employee are not just financial.

I live in the west, and traditionally a group of neighbouring farmers have always joined together to help get the silage done. However, as some farmers have gotten older, we have hired casual labour to help us with the workload.

I am a little concerned about the legal requirements of hiring labour for the farm.

Are there any tax implications? What if we have to hire contractors for part of the work – are there different requirements for this?

The extra labour demands that this time of year puts on farmers means that many will use casual labour from off farm to ease the workload and help complete the task before the weather breaks.

While contractors are an option, they can be expensive and this system will not suit all farmers.

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.

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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 €9.55 per hour – the rate went up on January 1 this year.

An ‘experienced adult employee’ is an employee who has been in employment of any kind for two years over the age of 18.

The exception to this minimum rule are employees under 18 years. They are entitled to €6.69 per hour.

Employees aged 18 and in the first year of employment are entitled to €7.64 per hour. Employees aged 18 and in the second year of employment are entitled to €8.60 per hour.

Employees under 18 but over 15 cannot work for more than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. Also, they cannot work outside of the hours between 6am and 10pm.

This new regulation affects insurance for young workers if they are driving for too long.

Failure to pay the appropriate minimum wage can result in a fine.

Holidays

The general rule is that an employee is entitled to 8pc 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.

Employers are not obliged to pay workers during sick days. Employees may be entitled to claim illness benefit from the Department of Social Protection in respect of these days.

Employers’ 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 13 weeks is entitled to a minimum notice period. Employers can pay employees in lieu of the notice period.

An employee who has been employed for two years or more, continuously, is entitled to redundancy payment of two weeks’ 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.

While it may seem a daunting prospect to have to deduct taxes and return them to Revenue, there are a number of software packages available to download which can assist with this process – or you can have your accountant do this for you.

Health & safety

An employer has a duty to take “reasonable care” for the employee’s safety.

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; 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.

Hiring contractors

Those who choose to hire contractors will not have to worry about paying ‘stamps’ for them; however, you do have to consider other factors, such as: have you adequate insurance in place?

The landowner is not normally responsible for dangers created by contractors due to negligent or dangerous practices. 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.

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.

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 it.

This article is a general guide. You should seek professional advice in relation to your individual circumstances.

Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Ardrahan, Co. Galway.

Indo Farming

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