Farm Workers' Wages (Script 273)

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This script explains the rules for farm worker wages (or pay), including minimum wages, how often wages must be paid, overtime pay, farm labour contractors, and payroll records. The Employment Standards Act is the provincial law that sets these rules for farm workers not in a union.

The Act also deals with who is a farm worker, public holidays (also called statutory holidays), vacation pay, and what to do if your employer doesn’t follow the rules. For that and other information (on workers’ compensation, employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, sexual harassment and discrimination at work), check script 274, called “Farm Workers’ Rights”.

Who is a farm worker?

A farm worker is a person who works in a farming, ranching, orchard, or agricultural operation. If you are hired to help grow or pick crops, cultivate land, or raise animals, you are a farm worker. You are also a farm worker if you clean, size, grade, box, or package fruits, vegetables, or other crops. But you are not a farm worker if you process food products, breed pets, work in forestry, aquaculture, or in a retail nursery, or work as a landscape gardener.

What is the minimum wage for farm workers?

The BC government sets the minimum wage for farm workers, who can be paid by the hour (or salary or commission) or by the piece, as described next.

1. If you’re paid by the hour, or by salary or commission

The minimum hourly wage is $10.45.

2. If you’re paid by the piece

The minimum rate for picking certain fruit or vegetables by hand is set by the BC government and depends on the crop. For example, the minimum rate is different for a pound of raspberries than for a pound of beans. A bin of apples and a bin of grapes have different rates.
Both the minimum hourly wage and piece rates change occasionally – the Employment Standards Branch website lists them. Check the factsheets on Minimum Wage and Piece rates.

Vacation pay and statutory holiday pay

Farm workers paid by the piece are not entitled to vacation pay since this is included in the piece rate (except for daffodils – the piece rate for them does not include vacation pay). But if you are paid by the hour or by a salary (or you pick daffodils) you are entitled to vacation pay (an extra 4% or 6% or your earnings depending on how long you have been employed) and vacation leave. Regardless of how you are paid, farm workers are not entitled to statutory holiday pay.

Are children paid less?

No. The minimum wage is the same for everyone, regardless of age. Currently, children 12 to 14 years old can work only if they get written consent from their parent or guardian. Children under 12 can work only if they get permission from the Director of Employment Standards.

How often, how, and when must you be paid?

An employer must pay you at least twice a month. A pay period cannot be longer than 16 days. An employer must pay all wages earned each pay period. An exception to this is if you hand pick fruit, vegetable, flower, or berry crops. Then, an employer must pay you 80% of all wages you earn in the first pay period of a month within 8 days of the end of that pay period. They must pay all wages you earn in the month (minus the wages paid in the first pay period) within 8 days of the end of the second pay period. Employers cannot wait until the end of the season to pay you.

If you work for a farm labour contractor, the contractor must pay you by direct deposit to your account at a bank, trust company, or credit union.

If an employer fires you or lays you off, the employer must pay you all wages owing within 48 hours of letting you go. If you quit, the employer must pay you all wages owing within 6 days of when you quit.

Do you get overtime pay?

No, farm workers do not get overtime pay. The law does not limit the hours that farm workers can work, but it does say that an employer cannot let an employee work excessive hours or hours that could harm their health or safety.

Do you get minimum daily pay?

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:

  • 2 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.

If you work for a farm labour contractor

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 that they will follow the rules. The government can use the deposit to pay farm workers hired by a contractor who does not pay them – even though the farmer paid the contractor.

Vehicle safety notice

All vehicles used by farm labour contractors to take farm workers to a job site must have a vehicle safety notice posted in them. The notice says that all passengers must be seated, and in vehicles requiring seatbelts, every passenger must wear a seatbelt.

Can a contractor charge you for gas, travel costs, or GST, or deduct money from your wages for hiring you or finding you work?

No, farm labour contractors cannot do any of these things. As well, contractors must clearly display the wages being paid in 2 places – where the work is done and on all trucks and vehicles used to carry workers. 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.

Payroll records

Your employer must keep a written record of payroll information about your job. The record must be in English and kept at the employer’s principal place of business for 2 years after your employment ends.

The payroll record must include all the following information:

  1. Your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and occupation.
  2. The date your employment began.
  3. Your wage rate, no matter how you are paid (hourly, piece rate, salary, flat rate, commission or other incentive pay).
  4. The hours you worked each day.
  5. The benefits paid to you.
  6. Your gross and net wages.
  7. The amount and purpose of any deductions from your pay.
  8. The dates of any vacation you take, the amounts you are paid, and any vacation days and amounts owed to you.

Your employer must also give you a written wage statement every payday showing items 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the payroll information, plus the following 3 things:

  • The employer’s name and address.
  • How your earnings are calculated, if you’re not paid by the hour or salary.
  • Any money, allowance, or other payment you’re entitled to.

Keep your own records of the hours you work and the wages you get. If you think you were not paid enough, your own records will help prove the hours you worked and wages you got.

For more information

  • Check script 274, called “Farm Workers’ Rights”, for information on:
    • Public holidays
    • Vacation pay
    • Complaints against an employer
    • Workers’ compensation
    • Employment insurance
    • Canada Pension Plan disability benefits
    • Sexual harassment and discrimination at work
  • You can also call the Agricultural Compliance Hotline at 604.513.4604. Or phone the Branch at 1.800.663.3316 or 250.612.4100 in the Prince George area. Also, see the location of the nearest Branch office.


[updated November 2015]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Jennifer Hagen and edited by John Blois.



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