• With a new year in sight, it’s tradition to make resolutions; continuing good practices or making improvements. As a rural business owner, now is the time to be thinking about your business resolutions and what you can do to ensure you’re starting 2023 on a solid, legally-compliant footing.

    Review your property considerations

    As a rural business owner, there are various considerations to be aware of in regard to your buildings and your land.

    • Are your title deeds registered and are they up to date? Registering them at HM Land Registry can give you increased protection against fraud as you’ll have proof that you own the land. It can also make it easier to sell your property in the future. 
    • Do others have rights of way over your land? If yes, do you have these formalised in written documentation? If you don’t know, it’s important to find out because you’ll need to understand what your rights and obligations are.
    • If you are providing accommodation for workers, do you understand their occupation rights? These will differ based on whether they have an assured agricultural occupancy or assured shorthold tenancy. Having written agreements in place will protect you and your workers.

    Find out how Brachers can help provide legal advice for rural property and buildings.

    Comply with your obligations as an employer

    You need to be aware of your employees’ rights and your obligations as an employer. Non-compliance can result in you facing an employment tribunal claim, amongst other risks.

    • Do you have the correct paperwork and procedures in place? Contracts and policies are all vital employment tools to protect you and your employees. Without them, you may be falling short of legal requirements.  As one example, the basic legal requirements for contracts of employment, the ‘section 1 particulars’, were changed in April 2020 and we still see many contracts that have not been reviewed or updated to reflect this over two years on.  
    • Are you paying staff correctly? Agricultural workers in England must be paid at least the national minimum/living wage. Workers employed before 1 October 2013 may have the right to the Agricultural Minimum Wage.  These rates change each year and also come with often missed important compliance rules on when wages have to be paid.  
    • Will you be employing seasonal workers in the summer? If so, there are various contractual considerations and legal obligations you need to be aware of including important recent further developments in the challenging area of holiday entitlement and holiday pay (which also apply to workers as well as employees), particularly for those with seasonal or zero hours type engagements. 

    The employment landscape is constantly evolving as is the regulatory and case law underpinning it.  Going into 2023, when was the last time you reviewed your compliance and best practice position? 

    Meet the requirements of health and safety legislation

    Agriculture is statistically one of the most dangerous industries. As an employer you have a duty to protect your employees’ health and safety.

    • Do you have an up-to-date health and safety policy and appropriate risk assessments in place? This is a requirement under health and safety legislation and failure to comply can lead to prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
    • Do other regulations apply to work undertaken as part of your business? The HSE provides useful guidance on its website regarding the obligations that rural business owners need to understand and comply with.

    Find out more about how we can help with health and safety law for rural businesses.

    Protect your family and assets for the future

    Having a comprehensive succession plan in place can provide valuable peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be met, your loved ones are looked after and the future of your business is protected.  

    • If multiple generations of your family work in the business, have you got a Partnership Agreement, in place? Not only do they set out the rights and responsibilities of each party, they also reduce the chance of future disputes. 
    • When was the last time you checked that your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is up to date? We advise updating your Will every five years or after any major life event and checking your LPA remains appropriate regularly. If you don’t have either, you’re risking the opportunity to have any say in what happens to your estate and assets should you lose capacity or die and your family may not inherit as you would like.  
    • If you’re getting married in 2023 (or if you’re already married) consider the benefits of a pre- or post-nuptial agreement as a way of setting out the division of assets should the relationship break down.

    Find out more about how our experienced team can help you plan for the future of your farm.

    Ensure your business is ready to face recession

    Considering the difficult economic climate we are facing, all businesses should be looking at their current commercial practices and how suitable they are to ensure they start 2023 on solid standing.

    • Have you got commercial contracts in place? Are they up to date and watertight in light of the challenges businesses are likely to face in 2023? Take some time to review the contracts you have and implement the ones you don’t.
    • Is now the time to rationalise processes? Are some areas of the business under or over-performing? Consider if action needs to be taken to mitigate risk, capitalise on opportunities for growth or to improve efficiencies.
    • This is only a selection of the legal issues that rural business owners need to be aware of. If you’d like to carry out a more in-depth health check on your business, to ensure compliance and support ongoing growth and sustainability, you should seek advice from your legal advisor.

    Find out how we can help your business review your commercial practices.

    This article was first published in the December 2022 edition of South East Farmer.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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    Take a look at our Agriculture and Rural page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you

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