The employment contract serves as a formal acknowledgement of the working relationship while also protecting both the employer and the employee regarding their duties and responsibilities. Contracts exist to protect both parties in a working relationship.

All workers (including permanent, seasonal, subcontracted, temporary, fixed-term, apprenticeships etc.) must receive written employment contracts on the day that they are employed. Employees who remain on the farm and conduct work between seasons must have a contract in place to protect the employer and ensure the employee has agreed to the conditions of employment. The contract not only lowers the risk for the producer, but also allows for all the workplace rules to be in writing to avoid any uncertainties or misinterpretations amongst employees. Apart from being a legal requirement, the contract is the start of the relationship and will dictate the relationship and workplace rules for both parties.

It is vital that employers understand the different categories of employment, meaning whether the employee is permanently employed or only used seasonally, and ensure that the working relationship must be correctly reflected in the contract.

Employers must also remember to provide employees with a contract when they start working. They cannot wait days, weeks, or months before supplying an employee with a contract, as this puts both the employer and employee at risk. The employment contract must also be explained and understood by the employee when they start working — this should be repeated if necessary.

If the employment contract also includes agreements regarding housing benefits, performance bonuses, or targets for production (formerly known as piecework), these aspects must be clearly defined in the contract. A dual responsibility rests on both the employer and the employee in these cases, and this must be agreed upon. For example, if the employer provides housing, the resident must keep it neat and clean, or production bonuses are only payable after a specific target for work has been reached. These aspects must be clearly set out and agreed upon before the employee is appointed.

For more information and assistance on contracts, feel free to view the SIZA Social Standard: and examples/templates of contracts here: