Amy Eggleston: Time off from farming makes you safer

If you are an employee working in the UK, you get a certain number of holiday days to take off each year.

We choose what to do with them and if we use them, but that’s a personal choice.

In farming, the nature of the job means getting away isn’t always possible. But when did taking time off become so frowned upon?  Since when did the hours you put in equate to how committed you are?

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I understand a traditional holiday isn’t always possible in this industry, and that having a farm can tie us to the animals – that’s something we sign up for.

Some periods of the year in particular are busier than others. In the spring at home, we calve around 500 cows in a 12-week block, so taking a holiday isn’t exactly feasible. It’s the same for others during lambing or harvesting.

Although we ask our team not to take extended holiday within this period, they are still entitled to their normal weekdays and weekends off. They need this time to be able to function at work, to keep alert, keep motivated and most of all – stay safe. Getting up at 4am takes its toll on us all.

What I can’t understand, then, is hearing farmers who disapprove of others for simply taking time off. Farmers, particularly of the younger generation, are branded “not hard working” – purely for taking a day off (which has been earned).

Isn’t it in everyone’s interest for the team to be well-rested, engaged and safe?

I understand this industry is a lifestyle not just a job – we can’t simply walk away from it and go partying in Ibiza for two weeks without a minute’s notice. But time off should be valued more highly, as it helps people look after themselves.

Farm Safety Week (which took place from 20-24 July), really reminded us how dangerous this industry can be – and tiredness does nothing to help.

The latest report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirms that there were 20 on-farm fatalities in the 12 months to March 2020 – and a further eight deaths in April and May alone.

Even if they don’t use it for a holiday, people need time off to look after themselves and so they can come back to work feeling refreshed. It doesn’t mean they’re not hard workers.