Under the Holidays Act 2003 employers are required to maintain a wage, time and leave record for each of their employees (waged and salaried). In practice, the best way to achieve this is by keeping timesheets for all employees on farm.
Immigration advisors are now actively seeking this information when making an assessment of work permit applications and it reduces the headache if a labour inspectorate comes to visit.
Having information on the hours worked at your farm can assist with workforce planning and overall attractiveness of the workplace. Once hours are known you can assess the possibilities of reducing long hours, create more efficient farm processes and ensure you are keeping everyone safe.
If keeping timesheets are just part of “the way we do things on farm” employees will respect the process and understand it can be part of good people management. Overall, it gives employers a sense of confidence that they know what’s happening at their place and can use this to improve farming practices.
Do you know that all employees are entitled to be paid the minimum wage for each hour they work within each week?
Seasonal averaging, whereby employers average out pay across a 12 month period, with the intention that the high hours/week worked during calving will be offset by working less hours/week in the low season, is not allowed in relation to minimum wage. Each hour must be paid at least the minimum wage.
This may mean that top-up payments are required, so employees earn at least the minimum wage during busy seasons on farm.
Keep up to date with the current minimum wage by visiting the Employment New Zealand website.
- To learn more about what records you must keep for an employee click here.
- For user-friendly timesheet templates click here.
What is time recording and how do I do it?
Time recording is where the employee enters hours worked into a system the employer has in place. The employer then reviews the hours, signs them off and ensures the employee is paid correctly. Time recording can be paper based, via app or computer/systems and ideally will be interlinked directly to a payroll system.
The different systems have different benefits. Before deciding what to implement consider what information you need, how you could save time linking this to your payroll system and what your staff are mostly likely to use easily.
Level of detail
You’ll need to decide the level of detail you would like:
- Start and finish times
- Break down of tasks and length of time taken too complete tasks
- Leave taken
- Other notes that could be taken at the same time
- What platforms (paper, phone, computer) do staff like to use
- Abilities to manually calculate hours
- Where the staff will access the timesheet from e.g. home, in dairy, in front of quad bike
- Ability to mix systems e.g. could some staff do online and others paper based
- What increments do you want time measured in e.g. 15 mins, 30 mins
- How will you alert staff that it needs filling in
- When does it need to be completed by
- Access to computer or smart phone
- Connectivity Issues
Paper based App based Scanners and card punch What is it? Time recorded using pen and paper either via a timesheet or written in a book like the farm diary or carbon copy invoice book. Vary from simple app timesheets to more sophisticated systems that can include rostering, alerts to comply with minimum wage, employee time broken down by task, dashboard etc. Finger or eye scanners fixed at a particular place. Employees scan in and out and time is recorded. Examples - Individual timesheet - fortnight
- Individual timesheet - weekly
- Individual timesheet - no set days
- DairyNZ has reviewed some of the more common time keeping tool apps in the rural sector, see the review here. Pros
- Simple to use
- Easy for employees to understand
- Not reliant on technology
- Simple to use
- Phones are frequently 'on' people
- Holds a record for you
- Aggregating data and reporting is easy
- Often employees can see a view of their hours worked over a timeframe
- Hours information can often be migrated into payroll systems
- Simple to use
- Easy for employees to understand
- Accurate measure of time
- Can easily be forgotten
- Requires people to physically be somewhere to fill it in
- Has to be filed and kept for 7 years
- Relies on maths skills to manually add hours
- Requires smartphone and phone connectivity
- Requires people to physically be at a certain point.
- Data needs to be kept and entered into pay systems.
Tips from farmers
We went out to farmers and they gave us some great pointers in how to implement and maintain a time recording system.
Introducing a new system
It can be challenging to get people excited about filling in timesheets. This could be because they don’t know how, or they can’t see any benefit in taking the time to do it.
- Have a session with your team to set expectations, explain the importance of timesheets and encourage feedback/questions. Establishing simple, fair and clear rules reduces any ambiguity
- Discuss with your team that you want to start keeping timesheets for all employees and explain what you will use that information for. Such as:
- to ensure hours worked are paid fairly and of reasonable length
- to make farm improvements, e.g. to the roster or staff numbers
- Discuss and decide with your team how employee time will be recorded including:
- If paper-based, via an app, in the farm dairy etc.
- How timesheets should be filled in e.g. does it include travel, do you measure in 5, 10 or 30 min increments, how are breaks recorded etc.
- The level of detail required in the timesheet
- The cut-off time for timesheet submission and what to do if you can’t submit a timesheet
- How leave can be requested, how decisions are made on whether to approve and how employees will know if their leave has been approved or otherwise
- Ask that every employee takes responsibility for filling it out accurately and on time.
- Think about updating your employees employment agreements to reflect the requirement to keep a timesheet and / or update the farm policy and procedures manual
- Set reminders to encourage people to complete them
- Maintain enthusiasm with your team about filling the timesheets in and encourage communication about the hours being worked so employees can see the benefits of completing this task.
- Make timesheets a normal part of everyone’s day on your farm.
Once time recording is in place, allow everyone time to get used to the system. Some people may need extra help or support to get used to doing timesheets. Having time set aside as part of the week for employees to go back and fill in gaps is useful. Most importantly, show how you are using the information collected to improve their working experience e.g. by reducing long hours, more efficient farm processes, paying fairly or keeping everyone safe.
Practical tips to keep the momentum going
Often, new habits start with a hiss and a roar, but if you find a few weeks or months down the track that timesheets are being neglected, try some of the following tips, shared with us by farmers:
- Discuss the best way that people like doing it and encourage ideas for making it faster, easier, more convenient etc.
- Ask staff why they don’t do it - consider changing your system to suit them e.g. one farmer changed to an app as staff always have phones with them
- Make it just part of the daily routine e.g. at start and finish of day, or over smoko. Or put it next to something they usually fill in like the Dairy Diary
- Constant reminders – via text, time app system, at meetings
- Consider giving incentives – and use positive peer pressure e.g. drinks or BBQ if the whole team’s timesheets are submitted on time for two weeks in a row
- Be very careful if considering withholding payment due to lack of timesheet information
- Incorporate into farm polices
- Be the change - do it yourself!