Review of the Year: End of the Agricultural Wages Board

Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board – which had set minimum wage levels for farm workers in England for more than 60 years – finally came into effect from 1 October.

Workers’ representatives accused the government of being underhand after the board’s abolition was included as an amendment within the Efficiency and Regulatory Reform Bill – avoiding the need for debate by refusing to prioritising the issue.

Shadow farm minister Huw Irranca-Davies claimed abolishing the board could cost low-paid rural workers and the wider rural economy up to £260m. As well as governing wages, the AWB had provided a training structure for the sector.

But farm leaders argued that the board was outdated and imposed unnecessary red tape on employers – especially as Britain now has a national minimum wage. And the NFU rejected suggestions that abolishing the would result in lower wages.

Not all farmers approved the scrapping of the board. Some argued that getting rid of it gave the impression of farming as a low-paid sector at the very time the industry is trying to encourage thousands of new entrants to carve a career in agriculture.

Its abolition also means employers are now much more hands-on when it comes to agreeing terms and conditions of employement with farm workers. As well as regular wages, affected areas include holiday entitlement, working time and sick pay.

For more on this topic

Expert guidance on farm pay negotiations as AWB ends