Shropshire Star

Labour is key to farm sustainability

A sustainable workforce goes hand in hand with a sustainable farm business and farmers must address labour issues to truly achieve this.

Paul Harris

The hours that farm employees are expected to work are unsustainable, says Paul Harris, CEO at staff specialist REAL Success.

“It’s too exhausting, so how do we produce a sustainable workforce?” he said. There are two areas which need addressing before farms can ensure sustainability, he says.

“These areas are working conditions and working hours, which includes our approach to health and safety – if you’re going to attract people into the industry and keep them then you have to be serious about decent, safe working conditions.

“Firstly, we must move away from expecting people to work for 10 days before they get two days off. And we now have to be less reliant on overseas workers, who were almost used as an excuse to not improve and modernise our approaches – that’s no longer an option.”

The solution involves investment.

“Get a working toilet, a decent staff room, pay attention to the conditions staff are working in, have a focus on health and safety and then consider working hours,” he said.

“It’s impossible to sustain top performance for 10 days in a row when you’re working 10 hours a day – it’s 100 hours of work before you get a proper rest.”

It might also involve investing in part-time workers. “Taking on unskilled part-time workers can help to alleviate some of the pressure.”

Retaining staff is important for ensuring a sustainable business. “Retention is important for achieving business goals, so you’re not wasting time and resources hiring and firing staff. Employing the right person from the beginning can help to reach those sustainability goals – at REAL Success we provide help every step of the way.”

The industry is turning its attention towards sustainability with two prominent events coming up – Down to Earth and Groundswell. “We work closely with Down to Earth hosts – Grosvenor Farms - on the development of its team,” says Mr Harris. “We have a stand there, so make sure to pop by and get any questions about staff answered by our team of experts.”

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