Samantha Bills LLB/BCOM

NZ Dairyfarmer

December 2017

How do I keep good employees?

Having good quality, long term, and engaged employees results in a smoother, safer and more cost-effective business.

A key challenge for farm owners and managers is how to keep quality employees. Recruiting and training can be expensive and time-consuming, and disappointing if the employee leaves the job soon after completion.

Employees can leave for any reason, and sometimes that is beyond an employer’s control. However, all employees are concerned about their minimum rights and entitlements. They expect their employer to know basic things like individual employment agreements, minimum wage, public holidays and annual leave.

If an employer fails to address or understand these simple matters, it can place the employee in the uncomfortable position of either having to stand up for their rights, or working for less than they are entitled to.

Further, if an employer is not up-to-date in implementing minimum entitlements, they risk a personal grievance, or even failing an inspection from a labour inspector. This can be costly, particularly if the employer is found in breach of health and safety.

Each employee must be on a written individual employment agreement. Agreements should be in plain language and current in law. Agreements must outline the nature of the employment, the employee’s duties, their location of work, hours, salary or wage, and the way an employment problem can be solved or a personal grievance raised.

A short but straightforward explanation of an employees position and entitlements ensures that there is no confusion or misunderstanding from the outset.

Employers also need to understand that employees must be paid at least the minimum wage per hour worked. There are two key parts to this obligation.

First, an employer must keep accurate time sheets and wage records. It is the employer’s responsibility to check that their employees are completing time sheets and receiving accurate wage records.

Secondly, and employer must ensure their employee is paid at least minimum wage for each hour worked. This applies to employees who are paid by the hour, but also those on a salary. An employer should check the salary paid is at least equal to the minimum wage per hour. An employer cannot average out an employee’s hours over a season. The longest period an employer can average out an employee’s hours is a fortnight.

Annual leave and public holidays are also important, and can be tricky to get right.

When an employee takes annual leave, an employer needs to determine what the employee is entitled to be paid during that annual leave. The employee could be entitled to their ordinary weekly pay, or their average weekly earnings (over the previous 12 months). The employee will be entitled to the higher amount. If the employee does frequent overtime, or receives bonus payments based on performance, they may be entitled to more than their normal salary when they are on leave.

When employees work on a public holiday (or an observed public holiday) then they must be paid at a rate of at least time-and-a-half of their relevant daily pay for those hours worked. They also must be offered a day-in-lieu.

If an employee does not work a public holiday, but it would usually be a day of work (i.e. a day they were rostered on for), then an employer is required to pay the normal daily pay that they employee would receive.

Employees expect their employer to understand these key rights and entitlements. A good employee will usually only tolerate a disorganised employer for a short time. If an employer wants to retain quality employees, then they need to understand their employees’ minimum rights.