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Fresh look at rules of farm employment required

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 27/06/2014

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Dairy farmers have been told to lift their game to comply with employment laws.

No8HR spokeswoman Lee Astridge said Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) figures showed about three-quarters of dairy farmers visited were in breach of minimum employment rights.

No8HR specialises in recruitment, employment and helping employers.

Astridge was talking to about 50 dairy farmers at a Smash (small herds) national conference in Palmerston North this week.

She said farmers flouting the law contributed to the industry being seen as unattractive. It needed to attract good people and retain them.

"For most school leavers it's not attractive. How many of your own children are saying, yes Dad, I want to be a farmer?"

Rangiotu dairy farmer Robert Ervine said he didn't believe as many as three-quarters were in breach of employment laws, as MBIE went to farmers it knew had been breaking rules.

"But it behoves us all to look at what we're doing."

In the past dairy farming was a career and people saw farm ownership as the prize in nine to 10 years, he said. "For many people it is a job now and they're not motivated for it to be anything more."

He said some workers aspired to be managers but they all wanted a good wage and time off.

"It has made me think - perhaps we need to double-shift. I might need to have someone start in the morning and someone else do the afternoon milking.

"We'd have to build it into our rosters and employment costs."

Ervine said while many younger farmers were OK with employment paperwork, many older farmers were not.

Oroua Downs farmer Christine Finnigan said she thought working on dairy farms was a lot better than it used to be as many farmers were now more at ease with employment law.

Federated Farmers Manawatu/Rangitikei president James Stewart said fitting in with employment law was the new face of farming.

He is a dairy farmer at Hiwinui, near Palmerston North.

Stewart said many farmers were self-employed and with an older workforce, "it has taken a bit to keep up".

But he said Federated Farmers offered agreements for workers on dairy farms that met the law's requirements.

"And there is an 0800 number that gives advice. It's one of the benefits of belonging to the federation. It gives support and agreements and I recommend people use it."

He said there had been some grey areas over houses and food supplied, and the federation had been in discussion with MBIE.

"I'm not saying there have been major disasters. But some farmers have to tick all the employment boxes better."

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Ervine and Finnigan said a positive thing to come out of the Smash conference was that Astridge said they were getting people who wanted to be employed on smaller dairy farms, rather than corporate farms.

"It gives them a chance to have a go at most things, rather than just specialise in one at a big dairy farm," Ervine said.

- Manawatu Standard

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