EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS for farm staff will be compulsory from Oct 1.

Farmers and rural employers will have to put formal discipline and grievance procedures in place by next month, as changes to employment law mean employers of fewer than 20 people will no longer be exempt, say farm business advisers.

Mike Parkin, of rural accountant Bentley Jennison, said the changes were aimed to prevent grievance issues reaching tribunal level, giving them a chance to be resolved on the farm.

The new rules will mean a dismissal deemed “necessary, fair and totally reasonable” could become automatically unfair if basic employment measures are not in place.

“The main message for farmers is they need to take action now to review contracts and procedures, and seek advice before taking any action against an employee,” said Mr Parkin.