Federated farmers is concerned that employment law is failing when it comes to animal welfare issues.
In a recent survey of its members, a clear picture was highlighted, where farm employers feel the legal system prevents them from ensuring livestock are not abused or neglected.
“It is clear from the survey that there is a huge lack of trust in the employment law system. Farmers feel they have been burnt when trying to protect their animals and would now rather “pay-out” staff, who have neglected their stock, in fear of the legal system letting them down,” said Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Employment Spokesperson.
“What we want is for simpler rules and a fair and balanced approach, when it comes to dismissing staff for animal welfare issues. When you have a staff member breaking tails, beating calves or dogs and so on, employment law appears to hinder the employer’s rights to mitigate this from happening.
“Almost 20 percent of those surveyed have had to dismiss an employee regarding animal welfare issues and of those, 64 percent said they paid out the employee because it was easier and less expensive than taking them to court. If there are no repercussions for offender’s actions, it does not bode well for livestock this person may work with in the future.
“It comes down to a matter of fairness; 50 percent of the respondents felt that employment law wasn’t fair to employers, where as just 12 percent felt it was. There is a big divide here and it needs to be acknowledged.
“If farmers don’t trust or understand the employment law system then how are they going to protect themselves from employee’s who are not only killing stock in inhumane ways but behaving aggressively to staff and their employer?” concluded Ms Milne.
Anything which compromises animal welfare ought to be grounds for automatic dismissal.
That is no longer a simple process and I know of a few cases where getting the process wrong resulted in legal action from sacked employees, who won.
The abuse wasn’t disputed but the way the dismissal was handled was deemed to contravene the workers’ rights.
This is why employers will opt for paying out the employee because it can be cheaper in the long run.
That means the employee gets off without having to face the consequences for the abuse.