The ECH guide and EP manual provide guidance on an existing NICs
concession in respect of irregular harvest casuals. The concession
applies to certain casual workers engaged in harvesting outdoor
crops and sets out a number of conditions. Where all of the
conditions are satisfied, the farmer is relieved of responsibility
for operating the NI scheme in respect of his irregular harvest
casuals. The concession does not apply to any other agricultural
workers, including those casuals who are employed on a regular
Where the conditions of the concession are not satisfied, a farmer must deduct NICs from the earnings he pays to his irregular harvest casuals in accordance with those statutory rules dealing with liability for Class 1 NICs. To decide the extent of the liability it is necessary to establish the correct earnings period to be applied. The following explains how the earnings period is determined for those accepted as irregular harvest casuals.
NIM08004 explains that where earnings are paid at regular intervals the earnings period prescribed by regulation 3 SS(C)R 2001 reflects the length of the period between which the payments of earnings are made. A person who receives their earnings every Friday, for example, is prescribed a weekly earnings period. NIM08004 also explains that an earnings period prescribed under regulation 3 cannot be less than a week.
This means that where a person is paid at the end of each day for each day’s work a regular payment pattern can be established and the earnings period is prescribed under regulation 3 as one week. To determine whether Class 1 NICs are payable in that week and, if so, the amount, all earnings paid in that week must be aggregated and NICs calculated on the total earnings figure. This applies for however long that pattern of payment is maintained, no matter how long the employment lasts.
NIM08100 explains that where earnings are paid otherwise than at regular intervals, and the earnings cannot be treated as being paid at regular intervals, the earnings period is prescribed under regulation 4 SS(C)R 2001. The general rule within regulation 4 is that the earnings period is the length of the period of that part of the employment for which earnings are paid or a week, whichever is the longer.
Regulation 4 is the regulation applicable for determining the earnings period of irregular harvest casuals. This is because workers engaged in harvesting crops are normally:
Since the same farmer, or different farmers, can employ these
workers on successive days, alternate days or sporadically over
several weeks, it often proves impossible to identify a regular
pattern of earnings for these workers.
A worker may work on a Monday and Tuesday at one farm, find no work on Wednesday because of bad weather, work on a different farm on Thursday and Friday and return to the original farm on the Saturday. The pattern of employment for the following week is likely to differ again.
A worker is offered work on Monday and at the end of that day is paid-off. The worker is aware that the farm has further crops that will need to be harvested and turns up on the Tuesday to ask if further work is available. The farmer does have further crops to harvest and re-engages the worker under the same terms and again pays him off at the end of Tuesday. This pattern could continue for several days or weeks, subject to the weather conditions and the available work.
Since no regular pattern of earnings can be established and the payments cover periods of employment lasting less than a week, the earnings period applied to each payment is one week.
Where an irregular harvest casual receives more than one payment of earnings in respect of separate, irregular engagements with the same employer in the same week, NICs are calculated separately on each payment of earnings.
It is important to remember that an irregular earnings period is only appropriate to those workers defined as ‘irregular casuals’ within the NICs concession; that is, those workers who:
An irregular earnings period will not apply to regular casuals
who are normally employed to undertake specific tasks at various
times during the year, including harvesting. This includes regular
casuals who are engaged on a regular basis even though they may be
paid on a daily basis.
Whether the basis of employment can be regarded as irregular will be a matter of fact and should be determined on a case by case basis.