A SINGLE minimum level of pay for agricultural workers has been agreed by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board and will come into effect from April 1.

The new rate of £7.50 is for all agricultural workers, irrespective of age and duties, and is equal to the UK Government’s national living wage

In a move aimed at seasonal workers, the overtime rate for workers during the first 26 weeks of employment will only start after 48 hours in the week is worked and at the rate of 1.5 times the agreed hourly rate. For all workers after 26 weeks continuous employment, overtime will start sooner, after 39 hours, but again calculated at the rate of 1.5 times the agreed hourly rate.

NFU Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates issued a joint statement on the new rates. NFUS chief executive, Scott Walker, said: “The announcement is formal confirmation of the negotiations that took place last year and now sets the minimum rates of pay that will be effective from April 1.

“The introduction of the National Living Wage put a very different slant on the negotiations with the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board. Agricultural wages cannot be set at a rate of pay that is less than that of the National Living Wage. We were pleased, therefore, that the wages board recognised the substantial increase that is to take place in the National Living Wage and agreed that the minimum agricultural wages would be in line with those.

“We were also successful in receiving recognition from the wages board that the rules on overtime were having a significant impact on seasonal workers," added Mr Walker. "As such, we have been able to get agreement that will see overtime for those in the first 26 weeks of employment not begin until a minimum 48 hours have been worked in a week. This is positive for both workers and employers.”

SLaE policy officer Katy Dickson said: “An hourly rate in line with the National Living Wage concurs with Scottish Land and Estates’ desire to see employees being paid fairly. Whilst this is a significant increase at a time of uncertainty for agricultural businesses, employers are committed to ensuring that staff are offered good working conditions.

“The introduction of the National Living Wage last year, however, presents an even stronger case that there is no need for agriculture to be singled out as the only industry with a Board that sets minimum rates of pay," she added. "While the SAWB used to serve a valuable purpose, it is now no longer required and can lead to confusion for both employers and employees.

“With a base rate of pay now set by the government across all industries, we believe that other discussions on rates of pay are best left to individual employers and the employees that work for them. These talks can then properly consider the varying conditions which operate in different farming enterprises and businesses.”