Employment law changes must be adhered to, industry warned *H&H Plus*

  • The government has introduced new measures that apply to all businesses and employers, with two having been singled out by the industry as particularly worthy of attention. H&H finds out more...

    It is vital equestrian bosses adhere to recent employment law changes, despite current restrictions, experts have warned.

    The government has introduced measures that apply to all businesses and employers. And while of course all apply to equestrian concerns, two have been singled out by the industry as particularly worthy of attention.

    One of these is that all employees and workers must have a written statement of terms, a contract, by the first day of work.

    Lucy Katan, executive director of the British Grooms Association (BGA), told H&H it is vital to be legally compliant.

    “These are difficult times but you have to have your house in order,” she said. “If your staff aren’t contracted, what happens if you need to furlough them? What about those who are falsely told they’re self-employed, who now won’t get a penny?”

    “I hope this change will make a difference,” she added. “I hope it makes people aware of the importance of a written contract. The statistics are still abysmal – in our most recent survey, only 57% of respondents had one – but this draws focus to it.”

    Ms Katan said there is “no excuse” for non-compliance – the BGA’s sister body the Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) has a contract creator on its website.

    And having a written statement of terms protects both employers and employees.

    “Apart from the fact it’s a legal requirement, it lets all parties know where they stand,” she said.

    “If you haven’t got the terms in writing, a contract still exists, whether that’s oral or implied, but you have to have those terms in writing. And if you as an employer end up at a tribunal and you haven’t got a contract, the judge is going to think about what else you haven’t done. We want our industry to be a compliant, legal, caring place to work.”

    Equestrian and employment specialist barrister Victoria von Wachter, at 5 Essex Court Chambers explained “workers” is a term that would cover a number of people in our industry, advising any employer who is unsure to contact the EEA to check.

    “Our industry can be naïve in thinking someone is self-employed, so the employer doesn’t have to do PAYE, they’ll do their own tax, but they’re potentially setting up trouble for later,” she told H&H. “Most falsely described self-employed grooms are really employees, but failing that, they’re probably workers.

    “Failure to provide a contract to such people can generate an automatic award of two weeks’ pay from the tribunal, and allows the tribunal to draft the contract for you; do you really want that? And it draws attention to you.”

    Ms von Wachter also explained the other pertinent change; to in the way holiday pay is calculated.

    When irregular attendances are worked, this had been worked out on an employee’s average pay over the past 12 weeks, but this is now 52 weeks, for employees and workers. So this will affect anyone whose hours change seasonally.

    “If someone works six days a week in summer and three in winter and is paid for the days worked, then went on holiday in January, they’d get holiday pay based on an average of their last 52 weeks’ pay, so more than a week’s winter pay,” she explained.

    She added that she expects a surge in employment law cases once restrictions are lifted; the backlog that has not been heard, and a great deal of new ones caused by the current situation.

    “It’s going to be mayhem,” she said. “You do not want to end up in court, and employment cases can be terribly upsetting and dreadfully personal.”

    EEA president Tullis Matson added: “We’re aware of how tough things are for equestrian businesses but these changes are the law, and have to be adhered to.

    “Compliance will benefit all parties involved, and help ensure we as an industry can thrive when this is over.”

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