25 Jan 2016

Dairy farmers warned to check contracts

6:04 pm on 25 January 2016

Dairy farmers have been sent a warning to make sure staff are on the right contracts, as the Labour Inspectorate takes action to stamp out poor employment practices.

Organic milking teat cups.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A dairy farm in Canterbury, Viewbank Dairy, was fined $7500 last week for having staff on a casual contract when they should have been permanent employees with four weeks' holiday pay.

Labour Inspectorate Southern Regional Manager Stuart Lumsden said it was a common mistake for employees to be on the wrong contract, but employers needed to be more aware.

"There's only two times that you can actually pay someone 8 percent in lieu of holiday pay and that is when the person is on a fixed-term contract.

"There has to be good reason for that fixed-term contract and normally that... contract can't be for more than a year.

"The other time is when you're working irregularly... and, to be honest, that's fairly rare. Most people are actually part-time permanent employees, and that's where people are making the mistake."

Mr Lumsden said accurate record-keeping and seasonal averaging of salaries were two other areas where farmers often breached employment laws.