Opinion Piece: Temporary Employment Services improve efficiency and reduce complexity around seasonal employment in agriculture
- On February 14, 2020 /
- In Digital
One of the most challenging aspects of farming, specifically in the agricultural sector, is the seasonal nature of labour requirements. During harvesting season farmers must scale up their workforce dramatically. This small window is the sole opportunity for farmers to make any profit from their yield, and therefore having a sufficient workforce is critical. However, seasonal workforces are complex and time consuming to onboard and manage, especially when it comes to dealing with high worker rotation and the need for compliance with global legislation. A Temporary Employment Service (TES) provider specialising in agriculture can help to improve efficiency and reduce complexity while providing a full workforce complement in all seasons and all locations.
Seasonal workers are complex to manage
Obtaining sufficient workers during harvest season is incredibly complex and challenging. On many smaller farms, seasonal labourers are the friends and family of permanent staff. Larger farms work with community leaders to recruit workers for them, for the payment of a fee, and also make use of labour recruiters.
While most of these recruiters are registered, many are not, which makes them cheaper but exposes farmers to the risks associated with being non-compliant. Each of these sources only has limited capacity, which means farmers are using a complicated combination of various sources in order to get the workforce they require. Farmers also have their own requirements, costs and methods, which significantly adds to the complexity of the process.
Further to this, the nature of seasonal work is manual and labour-intensive, often in gruelling conditions such as solar heat. Global compliance legislation also mandates that contracts, information and statutory benefits be loaded onto an employment system, adding further time and complexity. Adding to this, many seasonal workers are ‘un-banked’ and a large number of farmers do not have payment systems in place to accommodate this. Cash is typically paid directly to workers, which is again a complex and dangerous process.
Logistics and planning challenges
Adding to the complexity for farmers is the planning, logistics and time management involved around harvest season. To use a vineyard as an example, prior to the harvest, the farmer will sit with the viticulture specialist and will, for example, plan to harvest 50 tonnes of grapes per day. This is then communicated to the sellers, who will in turn plan to receive this and ensure the logistics are in place to process it. The farmer must then procure the vehicles, overseers and labourers to complete this harvest as agreed.
In order to harvest the 50 tonnes per day, they may need 120 labourers in the field. If only 50 arrive, vehicles will stand still, logistics processes grind to a halt, targets are not met, the entire chain is affected and produce is at risk of spoiling because it cannot be harvested in time. This has a huge financial impact. The weather adds to the challenge since rain may cause delays. The next day, additional grapes will need to be harvested to make up for the shortfall from the day before.
Farmers need to dynamically scale their workforce in order to meet production and logistics requirements. However, harvest is not just about speed but about quality. If labourers are not careful with the produce they are picking, they could cause it to become bruised and spoiled. This is often an issue when the workers are paid ‘piece work’ which means their wages are tied to the volume they harvest. Wages need to be carefully managed to ensure the quality of the yield, which means that payment and quality management systems are essential.
Working with a TES provider to ensure volume, scale and compliance
A TES provider specialising in agriculture and farming can solve all of the challenges around a seasonal workforce. A TES provider has an extensive database of workers and can provide the dynamic scalability required to ensure seasonal workforce needs are met every day and that farmers only pay for the workers they need, when they need them. A TES provider also assists with vetting and verifying workers to ensure they are suitable for the tasks.
Utilising the services of a TES provider dramatically simplifies the process, as farmers can obtain all of their labourers from one provider who is 100% compliant and who has all of the administrative processes in place to ensure wages are always paid on time and fairly.
Using the services of a TES provider is a win-win scenario for farmers and labourers. Farmers have access to a fully compliant, entirely scalable workforce without any of the administrative hassles. Workers are ensured fair wages and on time payment, and can also leverage the potential for additional seasonal work at other farmers by being part of a TES provider’s database. TES providers also work to ensure skills development and ongoing upskilling of candidates, so there is potential to take on more managerial roles over time.
Compared to the traditional approach of obtaining seasonal labour, a TES provider can save days, even weeks of administrative effort while easing the intricacy associated with using multiple contractors and employment methods.
For large commercial farmers, the extensive reach and broad databases of a TES provider are especially beneficial. Farmers have the ability to deal with a single contractor and one rate to ensure compliant and dynamic workforces for all of their farms, regardless of location or timing of the harvest season. This leaves farmers to focus on their core business of bringing in the harvest and ensuring it continues through the logistics process, saving time and money while improving efficiency and reducing complexity.