Be Sure to Keep Compliant Records

The Labour Inspectorate has challenged all farmers to ensure that they keep adequate legally compliant employment records.

Picking up on this, my colleague, Sean, wrote last week that employers’ record keeping obligations are straight forward.  Not always – accurate record keeping is easier said than done, and not least of all for farmers. 

Farming is hard work at the best of times, but added to that, are the unique aspects to farming business that increase the already complex requirements for employment record keeping.

While farmers’ obligations to keep wage and time records, including holidays and leave, are not new, neither are the complaints about the complexity of the requirements. 

The fact of the matter is that New Zealand’s “minimum standards” for employment record keeping may just not be a good fit for many non- “9-5” workplaces, such as farms.

Farmers are not just required to keep good employment records. Their record keeping obligations are extensive, from farmers having to keep their farm diaries to record everyday events, around feed management, plant CIP, what cows are ailing, to extraordinary events like power outages, storm damage, etc.  Farmers also need to keep an account of their LIA records, NAIT records and Health and Safety systems – all of which are viewed by various different parties, from Farm Inspectors to Work Safe staff.

No wonder farmers occasionally slip up when it comes to keeping employment records.

Farmers are not trained to be Human Resources or Accounting experts.  They are passionate about their farm and their livelihood and sometimes, the lines can be blurred between being “at work” or “home”. 

Emergencies such as a pump failing in the middle of the night, will require the dairy farmer to attend to this, as cows still need water.   Increasingly, with current erratic weather patterns creating floods and droughts, farmers are often forced to work extensive, unplanned hours to save stock and crops. 

Record keeping on the farm, including employment information, can sometimes be overlooked when dealing with these emergencies and other, more pressing day to day on farm issues.

Penalising farmers is not the answer. Farmers need all the help and understanding they can get to make the administrative side of their lives easier.

Access to agencies such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Worksafe NZ, lawyers, employment consultants and farm advisors should be made as easy and cost effective as possible for farmers. 

On farm advice and administrative assistance to farmers needs to be practical and useful in order to help farmers navigate all their legislative requirements, including in the area of employment law.  This ensures that not only their farms, but New Zealand overall, will reap the economic benefits.

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Diana Koorts