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Agricultural employment and wages

Defra is responsible for legislation which permits the fixing of minimum wage rates and terms and conditions for agricultural workers.  It is also responsible for legislation establishing a licensing scheme for labour providers who supply workers to the agriculture, food processing and shellfish gathering sectors.

The Minimum Wage for Agricultural Workers

The minimum wage and other terms and conditions of employment for workers employed in agriculture are set by the Agricultural Wages Board.

The Agricultural Wages Board is an independent body with a statutory obligation to set minimum wages for workers employed in agriculture in England and Wales. It was established by the Agricultural Wages Act (1948).  The Board also has powers to decide other terms and conditions of employment, e.g. holidays and sick pay. It produces a legally binding Order which is enforced by Defra.  The Order is made annually and normally comes into force on 1 October.

If you would like to advice on how the Order’s provisions apply to you, or if you think you might have been paid less than the minimum wage you should contact the Pay & Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.  The helpline can also arrange for a copy of the Order to be sent to you.

  • If you work in agriculture you can learn more about your entitlements under the Order on Directgov
  • If you employ agricultural workers you can learn more about the Agricultural Minimum Wage on the Business Link website

The Pay & Work Rights Helpline does not deal with questions about the way the Agricultural Wages Board reaches its decisions over pay and other terms and conditions of employment.  If you have any queries on these issues please contact the Agricultural Wages Board Secretary.

Contact details:

The Secretary to the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales
Area 8E, 9 Millbank
c/o 17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR

Tel: 020 7238 6523
Fax: 020 7238 6553

Management and enforcement

The Agricultural Wages Team enforces the Agricultural Wages Order for England and Wales on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs using powers incorporated into the Agricultural Wages Act 1948 from the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.

Enforcement work is undertaken in response to specific complaints and is preceded by a period of informal arbitration aimed at bringing the parties to an amicable settlement. Formal inspections of employers pay records are conducted by Agricultural Wages Inspectors who act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs but are employed by the Rural Payments Agency. Where an inspector concludes that a worker has been underpaid he or she can issue an Enforcement Notice.

If you are a worker and you are not receiving your correct wages or other provisions as set out in the Agricultural Wages Order an Agricultural Wages Complaint form and guidance notes are available. Please complete and return the form to the address below:

Agricultural Wages Team
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Room 109
Electra Way
Crewe,
Cheshire
CW1 6GJ

Email: agriwages@defra.gsi.gov.uk

The Agricultural Wages Team are also responsible for dealing with correspondence about the provisions of the Order and can give advice on how we would enforce the Order but only the Courts and Employment Tribunals can give an authoritative interpretation of its provisions.

Contact the Agricultural Wages Board

The Agricultural Wages Team does not deal with queries on how the Agricultural Wages Board reaches its decisions over pay and other provisions. If you have any queries on these issues please contact the Agricultural Wages Board Secretary at the following address:

The Secretary to the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales
Area 8E Millbank
c/o 17, Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR

Tel: 020 7238 6523

Fax: 020 7238 6553

Earlier documents

Gangmasters Licensing

Legislation

The Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 established the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to set up and operate the licensing scheme for labour providers operating in the agriculture, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packaging sectors.  The Act also created the offences of acting as an unlicensed gangmaster and entering into arrangements with an unlicensed gangmaster.  It applies to labour providers who supply people to undertake work to which the Act applies anywhere in the UK, on any portion of the shore or bed of the sea, or of any estuary or tidal river, adjacent to the UK, whether above or below the low water mark (or in UK coastal waters).  This includes businesses registered as employment agencies or employment businesses. The Act also applies to people using others to gather shellfish.

Secondary Legislation

The Gangmasters (Licensing Authority) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No 448) came into effect on 1 April 2005.  The regulations govern the constitution of the GLA, the appointment of its members, payment of remuneration, allowances and any other matters in connection with the establishment and operation of the Authority.

The scope of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 was drafted in broad terms but the Secretary of State was given the power to make Regulations setting out the circumstances in which a licence is not required. These are the Gangmasters (Exclusions) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010 No 649).

The Gangmasters (Licensing Conditions) Rules 2009 (SI 2009 No 307) are made by the GLA and set out the conditions labour providers must comply with in order to obtain a gangmasters licence. 

The Act requires the Secretary of State to make regulations providing for appeals against a decision by the Authority. These are the Gangmasters (Appeals) Regulations 2006 SI 2006 No 662.

Making an appeal

A guide for people making an appeal (PDF 90 KB) is available. It includes an application form which can be printed, completed and submitted to the Appeals Secretariat.  Details of how to contact the Secretariat are at para 34 of the Guide.

The Licensing Scheme

The licensing scheme is operated by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.  The Authority also enforces the Gangmasters Licensing Act on behalf of Defra.

  • For details on how to apply for a gangmasters licence visit the GLA website
  • The gangmasters licensing pages on the Business Link website offers a good overview of the licensing scheme.
  • If you would like to know if your business needs a gangmasters licence you should call the GLA’s enquiry line on 0845 602 5020.

All labour providers (including those based overseas) who supply people to work in the regulated sectors must be licensed.  It is a criminal offence to operate without a licence and the maximum penalty is ten years in prison.

It is also a criminal offence for a labour user to enter into an agreement with an unlicensed labour provider, for the supply of workers. It will be a defence if the labour user can show he/she took all reasonable steps to check the labour provider was licensed.  Labour users can learn the steps needed to establish a labour provider is licensed by downloading the Defra booklet “Guidance on the steps that a labour user can take to ensure a labour provider is licensed” (PDF 340 KB)

Report on Wages In Agriculture

Page last modified: 26 October 2010