WH agriculture team members add more letters to their names
The new year started positively for three members of the agriculture team: Jennie Wheildon became a Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association in January 2020; Kim Brookes qualified as solicitor on 1 April and is also a Fellow of Cilex (the professional body for Chartered Legal Executives); and Rob Poulton is now a graduate member of Cilex, having successfully completed all the academic elements of his training, meaning he is on the way to qualifying as a Fellow.
This winter we have seen devastating floods across parts of the country. This, and the spread COVID-19, is a timely reminder that all businesses should have a disaster recovery plan. Have you considered what would happen if you and / or your workers are forced into quarantine, or logistics are disrupted so the milk lorry cannot turn up for a week? Making and communicating a plan of action to everyone on the farm or estate, and having all relevant phone numbers easily to hand, can help to limit stress and disruption following an unexpected event.
This scourge of the countryside shows no signs of abating. A recent BBC report notes that much of the increased activity is due to organised criminal gangs ‘exploiting the waste industry in massive fraud and fly-tipping schemes’ (Six Pump Court, Environmental Law News Feb 2020). Regardless, it is land owners and local authorities who have to bear the cost of clearing up under the ‘polluter pays principle’: although liability lies with the polluter, if the polluter cannot be traced (as with most fly tipping cases) then the owner or occupier on whose land the fly-tipping is found is liable. The Environment Agency has promised to enforce more rigorously but it would appear that the gains from illegal waste disposal are sufficiently large to be worth the risk of prosecution. Prevention is always better than cure. Think how you can reduce the risk of fly tipping through technology or hard barriers.
National minimum and living wage increases
The National Minimum Wage and Living Wage increased from 1 April 2020. The rates will be:
£8.72 per hour (from £8.21) aged 25 and over (National Living Wage)
£8.20 per hour (from £7.70) aged 21 – 24
£6.45 per hour (from £6.15) aged 18 – 20
£4.55 per hour (from £4.35) aged 16 -17
The apprentice rate increases from £3.90 to £4.15 per hour.
And, in further employment-related changes, since 6 April 2020, all workers and new employees must be issued with their written terms and conditions on the first day of work rather than within two months. Contracts will also need to state an employee’s working days, variability in hours/days, paid leave entitlements, all benefit entitlements, details surrounding any probationary periods and training information. Let us know if you need any help.
Application period for abstraction extended
Farmers abstracting water for a previously exempt activity, such as trickle irrigation, will be cheered to hear that the Environment Agency is extending the application window to 30 June 2020 (from the previous date of 31 December 2019). The favourable transitional arrangements available to those who apply successfully before the June deadline will be based on water usage between 2011 and 2017. Anyone applying for a licence after 30 June will be based on current water availability.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Natural England oversees SSSI, a protective designation given to important national areas for wildlife, plants, geological or physiographical features. If you are working in or near a SSSI, you may need the consent of, or at least consult with, Natural England. A new Single Point of Contact email address has been set up for requests for consent, assent or advice: ProtectedSites@naturalengland.org.uk.
Licences for newts and badgers
From 17 February 2020 Natural England started charging developers for great crested newt mitigation licences, and charges will also apply for badger licences this spring. If you have these animals on site and are considering a new development project, you’ll need to carry out an impact assessment and apply for any necessary licences so that you don’t end up in hot water!
It’s okay to not be okay
The team at Yellow Wellies ran the “Mind Your Head” for the third year in February 2020. The campaign raises awareness of mental health and the link to farm safety. Farmers and their families are facing increasing pressures, particularly at the moment, and, with the increase in activity after winter, it is a timely reminder to check yourself, your family and your wider team. There is lots of information and help available: Yellow Wellies, R.A.B.I and F.C.N all offer support and assistance as needed.