From a payroll perspective, agriculture is a deceptively tricky field to master. To help you avoid fees, fatalities, and faux pas, here is a general guide on what you need to do to ensure that your workforce is safe and compliant.
Know the Age Limit
Each state has its own definition of how old one must be to work on a farm. In New Jersey, for example, you can employ a 12 year old as long as you respect their school schedule and don’t employ them for more than 10 hours per day and six days per week. The caveat is that you also must have an agricultural permit for people under the age of 16, and they cannot perform any “dangerous” work.
Given the subjective persuasion of the word “dangerous,” it pays to brush up on your state’s legislature to ensure that a task you consider reasonable doesn’t fall under different terms in your area.
Check Your State’s Minimum Wage
You must pay your agricultural employees at least your state’s minimum wage. The same goes for break time and paid lunches—check with your state to see what you owe your employees. Agriculture is a field in which people often work 50 or 60 hours per week; it’s in your best interest as an employer to ensure that your employees are decently rested and properly paid.
It’s also worth noting that your employees are exempt from overtime, but only when performing farm tasks directly related to the farm’s operation. This won’t be a problem in most instances, but if you have your employees take a week to help with landscaping or refurnishing the company kitchen, you will have to pay them time and a half for any overtime worked.
Consider the Risks
Accident-proofing a farm of all things might seem like a daunting prospect. Thankfully, it isn’t so much a matter of putting child locks on the cucumbers as it is minimizing the number of places in which things can go wrong.
One of the most common causes of fatalities on farms nation-wide is vehicular malfunction. This can include anything from standard collisions to overturned rigs and slippage. To minimize the risk of your farm’s vehicles rolling down a hill or giving out on the highway, make sure you have all of them checked out and tuned up before any heavy use begins.
Another common cause of death is falling from too great a height. While there isn’t a universal way to prevent your employees from missing a rung on a ladder or slipping from a roof, it’s pertinent to go over basic safety protocols (e.g., rubber mats under ladders, harnesses on rooftops) before your season begins.
The same goes for any and all pieces of equipment. It doesn’t matter how well-seasoned your veterans are—everyone needs to be on the same page so that proper communication can take place.
Eligible Farm Employees
Not all your actions have to be prophylactic, of course. If you have eligible employees on your payroll this year, you may be able to reap more than grain.
Eligible farm employees are people on your staff who work a minimum of 500 hours per tax year. These 500 hours must accrue while performing farm-specific tasks, and executive officers are not included in the total number of eligible farm employees on your staff. For each eligible employee, you receive a small credit for different benefits (e.g., compensation) depending on your state.
To receive this credit, your gross income for the tax year must be at least $20,000, and you have to prove that the employees you list as eligible are, in fact, eligible.
The number of factors you must consider when hiring and managing this year’s workforce is too great to cover adequately in one document. For any questions about how you can get your agricultural operation up to speed, call Abacus Payroll at (856) 667-6225 today.
In addition, ask us about our HR Help Center, which can supply you with editable policies and documents, saving you time and money from creating them from scratch.