Life after the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board

11 November 2015

The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) was abolished on 25 June 2013 resulting in the Agricultural Wages Orders (AWO) ceasing at midnight on 30 September 2013. Two years on, Helen Molloy, senior solicitor, considers life after the AWB for British Farmers and Growers.

The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) was abolished on 25 June 2013 resulting in the Agricultural Wages Orders (AWO) ceasing at midnight on 30 September 2013. Two years on from its abolition, what is life like for British Farmers and Growers?

The majority of information in 2013 focused on how employers would be able to have current and new employees on different terms. The then current employees would retain their terms and conditions of employment, but they would not be entitled to any increase in such terms under the old AWO. New employees’ terms and conditions, whist subject to the various pieces of employment legislation, could be agreed between the parties and, generally speaking, need not be as beneficial. The feeling was that this would allow far greater flexibility and, ultimately, allow Farmers and Growers to pay less and give less benefits.

The reality? Yes, employers have been able to negotiate their own terms with new starters and they have not had to automatically provide pay rises to all employees. However, our clients have found that the knock on effect in the work place has often been to cause difficulties between a split workforce; new employees complaining about unfair treatment and employers being presented with a moral, as opposed to a legal, dilemma.

For this reason, employers have often sought to offer terms that are largely based on current employees’ terms so there is parity between them, instead of resentment and an uncomfortable working environment. Others have sought to vary existing employees’ term and conditions of employment, reducing them to a level they can also afford to offer to new starters. The latter, of course, is a process that should only be carried out with legal advice since getting it wrong can result in various claims including unfair dismissal, breach of contract and unlawful deductions.

Despite some of these practical difficulties, the abolition of the AWB does afford employers an opportunity, even two years down the line, to review their employees’ terms and conditions (along with any policies), to ensure they are making the most of their workforce and maintaining reasonable employee costs levels.

As always, our employment team is happy to assist with any such issues. Simply contact me or call our Lincoln office to speak to one of the team. 


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