Farm workers are covered by most sections of the main provincial law that protects workers in BC. But there are exceptions. Some of them involve how farm workers are paid.
Understand the legal framework
Under the law in BC, a farm worker is a person who works in a farming, ranching, orchard, or agricultural operation, and whose main responsibilities are:
- growing or picking crops, or raising or slaughtering animals,
- cultivating land,
- using farm equipment,
- cleaning, sorting, or packing crops, or
- selling farm products on site.
A farm worker does not include a worker who processes the products of an operation, works in aquaculture or a retail nursery, or works as a landscape gardener.
Farm workers are covered by most sections of the Employment Standards Act, the main provincial law that protects workers in BC and sets minimum standards employers must meet. See our information on farm workers’ rights (no. 274) for more on their rights under this and other laws.
Minimum wage is the lowest wage an employer can pay a worker. The minimum wage for farm workers depends on the way in which they are paid.
Farm workers who harvest specific crops by hand may be paid by piece rate. The minimum piece rate is set by the BC government and varies depending on the crop. For example, the minimum piece rate is different for harvesting a pound of raspberries than for a pound of beans. A bin of apples and a bin of grapes have different rates.
All other farm workers, whether they are paid hourly, by salary, or by any other method must be paid at least the general minimum wage. As of June 1, 2019, the general minimum wage is $13.85 per hour.
The Employment Standards Branch website lists the current minimums; visit gov.bc.ca/employmentstandards.
An employer cannot wait until the end of the harvest season to pay farm workers. An employer must pay workers at least twice a month. A pay period cannot be longer than 16 days.
Hourly and salaried farm workers must be paid all wages within eight days of the end of the pay period.
Farm workers paid by piece rate may be paid at least 80% of total estimated wages owing at the middle of each month. All remaining wages must be paid within eight days of the end of the month.
If an employer fires a farm worker or lays them off, the employer must pay the worker all wages owing within 48 hours of letting them go.
If a worker quits, the employer must pay them all wages owing within six days of when they quit.
Most workers in BC are entitled to vacation pay. This is an extra 4% or 6% of a worker’s earnings, to provide them with pay while absent during vacation. (The percentage depends on how many years they’ve worked.)
Farm workers paid by piece rate are not entitled to vacation pay, as it’s included in the piece rate. The exception is for farm workers harvesting daffodils — the piece rate for them does not include vacation pay.
Farm workers paid by the hour or by a salary (or who pick daffodils) are entitled to vacation pay, as well as vacation leave. They’re entitled to two weeks’ vacation after working for 12 consecutive months, and three weeks’ vacation after five years of employment.
All farm workers are excluded from statutory holiday entitlements.
On paydays, an employer must give each farm worker a written wage statement that includes this information:
- the employer’s name and address
- the number of hours worked
- the worker’s wage rate, whether hourly, salary, flat rate, piece rate, commission or other incentive basis
- any money, allowance or other payment the worker is entitled to
- the amount and purpose of each deduction
- how the worker’s earnings are calculated if they are paid other than by the hour or by salary
- the worker’s gross and net wages, and any vacation days taken and how much vacation entitlement remains
As well, the employer must keep detailed, written payroll records for each worker. The records must be in English and kept at the employer’s principal place of business. The records must be kept for two years after a worker’s employment ends.
A farm labour contractor provides workers to agricultural producers. The workers might work on a variety of farms owned by different producers.
If a farm labour contractor hires you, the contractor — not the farmer — is your employer. Farm labour contractors must have a licence from the BC government and follow certain rules. They must deposit money with the government to ensure they will follow the rules. The government can use the deposit to pay farm workers who are not paid by a contractor for work they’ve done.
A farm labour contractor must clearly display the wages being paid to farm workers, in multiple places — at all work sites and in all vehicles used to transport workers. The contractor must pay a worker’s wages directly to their bank account by direct deposit. The contractor must also keep a record showing the dates worked by each worker, the crop picked each day, and the volume or weight of crop picked each day by each worker.
All vehicles used by farm labour contractors to take farm workers to a job site must be maintained to certain safety levels, and have a vehicle safety notice posted in them. The notice says all passengers must be seated and, in vehicles requiring seatbelts, all passengers must each wear one seatbelt.
No, farm workers do not get overtime pay. The law does not limit the hours that farm workers can work, but it does say an employer cannot let a worker work excessive hours or hours that could harm their health or safety.
If a farm labour contractor takes you to a worksite and then there is no work, the contractor must pay you for the longer of:
- two hours, or
- the time it takes to go from the starting (or departure) point to the worksite and back to the starting point (or to another place no further than the starting point and acceptable to you).
If work is not available because of bad weather or another cause beyond the control of the farm labour contractor, you do not get any minimum daily pay.
No. A farm labour contractor must not charge a person for hiring or obtaining work for that person.
No. An employer cannot require a worker to pay any portion of an employer’s cost of doing business. As well, an employer cannot deduct or offset a worker’s earnings except for statutory deductions required by law (that is, income tax, Canada Pension Plan contributions, and Employment Insurance contributions), or with the written authorization of the worker.
No. The minimum wage for workers is the same for everyone, regardless of age. An employer who wishes to hire a young person aged 12 to 14 years old must get written consent from the young person’s parent or guardian. Children under 12 can work only if they get permission from the Director of Employment Standards.
The Employment Standards Branch is the provincial government office that administers the BC law that sets minimum standards for workers. The Branch website includes fact sheets on farm labour contractors and farm workers, in several languages other than English. You can also call the Branch’s Agricultural Compliance Hotline at 604-513-4604.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in January 2018
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