Employment Law in the UK Equestrian Industry
Sector spotlight – Employment Law in the UK Equestrian Industry
The equestrian industry is something which has developed over the years and is now more varied than almost any other sector either within agriculture or the wider leisure industry. Equine Law in the UK is a growing area which covers a range of legal issues.
Unfortunately, the Equestrian Industry is one within which business is still conducted in a ‘casual’ fashion. It has been this way for many years but this approach can mean, in trying to keep things informal, many businesses can fall foul of the modern legal principles of employment law.
The following example of a job advert is commonplace:
Groom/working pupil required for busy competition yard. All usual yard chores and plenty of riding and training available. Accommodation provided and room to bring own horse. Opportunity to work abroad at away shows. HGV licence required.
These arrangements work more often than not because ambitious young riders are willing to work hard for very little pay in the hope that they may reap the benefits of the occasional ‘free’ training session from a professional rider. However, the occasions where a dispute arises (often following the termination of the working arrangement) can be messy due to the lack of a written contract and verbal promises made by the employer not being honoured.
A number of problems can present an arrangement such as this. Most notably, as workers within the equine industry are often paid very low amounts, National Minimum Wage (NMW) issues can arise. For example, if the worker is paid £50 per week but provided with accommodation for them and their horse, along with training and lifts to shows and they work 10 hour days, 6 days a week (on average), then they are likely to be receiving far below NMW. In addition, this could also result in a breach of the Working Time Regulations.
HMRC are currently looking at these sorts of situations, where accommodation is provided as part of the job, and as a consequence of these investigations many businesses are coming under scrutiny for under-payment of NMW which can result in hefty penalties.
Due to the high proportion of young ambitious people in the equine industry, a professional yard can be an unpleasant place to work. However, Harassment and Bullying policies are practically unheard of in this environment. An ignorance of this can create problems with aggrieved workers who have been bullied out of their job and subsequently bring a claim for harassment or discrimination.
Other common factors in an equestrian workplace which can create problems include:
1. Engaging foreign workers without undertaking right to work checks;
2. Not allowing workers to take holiday;
3. Not ensuring the health and safety of their workers by taking precautions e.g. not allowing a young girl to deal with a 17.2hh stallion;
4. Paying cash in hand.
If you would like any advice in relation to Equine Law and issues you are experiencing in this industry please contact Kitsons Employment Team.