A recruitment company has warned that the new minimum wage means employers who are paying salaries rather than hourly rates could be unknowingly breaking the law and risking a serious fine.

“With the increase in the minimum wage, farmers who are paying salaries and expecting people to work 50 to 60 hours a week are in serious danger of paying that person below the minimum wage,” explained Paul Harris, CEO at staff specialist REAL Success.

“For someone working a 55-hour week, which is common in the agricultural sector, the minimum wage for someone over 21 years old would be £32,718.40,” he explained.

“But for someone working 37.5 hours a week, which is more of a standard week, the minimum wage would be £22,308.”

If accommodation is provided with the job, however, there could be an accommodation offset. “This is £69.93 a week, which can be added to the salary if the person is not contributing to the accommodation, and assuming the person lives in the accommodation full-time,” Paul explained.

REAL Success provides recruitment and people development support, working primarily in the agriculture sector.

“The issue is that the industry needs to face up to the fact that people cannot be working for 10 days on and two days off, with 10-hour days; people need to be working shorter weeks,” Paul said.

It is a criminal offence for employers not to pay the minimum wage or national living wage. “Farmers need to check now if their staff are being paid the right amount of money,” he added.