Right from the Start

Posted on 3/6/2020

Agribusiness

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Overview:

Perks Accounting Director, Matthew Petersen and Perks People Solutions HR Consulting Director, Cecilia White, talk on how employing people the right way from the start, can create quality long-term employee relationships and HR success for Agribusiness. As seen in the Autumn edition of InGrain Magazine.

In most modern farming operations, there is a need to employ seasonal farm hands or plant operators on either a permanent or casual basis. Employing the right people can deliver great benefits to the farming operation, however it does bring additional obligations and challenges as an employer.

Most agribusinesses are aware of the physical risks of operating plant, working with chemicals and general day to day broadacre farming tasks and therefore understand the importance of having policies and procedures in place, and providing the relevant training and equipment to their workers to mitigate these risks and keep them as safe as possible in the workplace.

Employment contracts and HR policy and procedure documents are another employer obligation which is commonly overlooked in the ag industry and perhaps seen as a requirement for businesses that operate in the “big end of town”. They are however, equally as important as occupational health and safety when considering financial risk management.

Farm workers are often sourced within familiar community circles and in most cases, the relationship starts out with the best intentions and a basic understanding of what is required on both sides. However, as time passes it’s not always smooth sailing. Cecilia White, Director of HR for Perks People Solutions, tell us that in many cases, issues with employees occur where there is a lack of clarity about employment conditions or expectations.  

Cecilia recommends having in place employment contracts, policies and procedures that are relevant, clear and concise; they should be tailored to your business in order to significantly reduce the chance of workplace disputes.

 “Written employment contacts that adhere to Australian industry standards, even for junior and casual seasonal workers, should be introduced as part of your induction to ensure the employee understands and agrees to their basic job description and duties, hours of work, rates of pay, absences from work and the workplace policies and procedures they need to adhere to,” Cecilia says.

HR policies and procedures should cover items as simple as the private use of equipment, through to more complex matters such as bullying and harassment. It’s important that all employees, even if there is only one, clearly understand and agree with what is expected of them, as well as the consequences of inappropriate behaviour and breaches of policies and procedures.

In most modern farming operations, there is a need to employ seasonal farm hands or plant operators on either a permanent or casual basis. Employing the right people can deliver great benefits to the farming operation, however it does bring additional obligations and challenges as an employer.

Ensuring that employees understand what they can and can’t do, together with their legal obligations and rights in the workplace, puts you in a good position to get the best out of your employees, without any grey areas. With an employment contract tailored to your business and industry, and the right HR policies and procedures in place, you have a sound platform to manage employee behaviour with greater protection against future claims in the event that employees are disciplined or dismissed for their actions.

“It’s easy to employ someone and agree to pay them an hourly rate for their efforts, however if this is all that is agreed, it can become extremely difficult to manage expectations or performance after the fact,” Cecilia points out.

Getting some advice and professional assistance to ensure that you are properly setup and compliant with relevant documents in place will maximise the likelihood of maintaining quality long-term employee relationships. And, if it doesn’t work out, your business won’t be exposed to costly workplace disputes.

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