Much of the commentary about the challenges businesses are facing due to COVID-19 has, understandably, focused on how well equipped people are to work from home.
However, farming and agriculture face unique challenges distinct from those other sectors are grappling with.
Farms require a physical presence and often provide shared accommodation for workers, so employers have to carefully balance health and safety concerns with business necessities. Supply chains are experiencing significant strain; delays in harvesting and distribution risk farmers breaching contract terms with customers. It’s critical for farmers and landowners to review their contractual positions and navigate these complex legal issues carefully.
5 things to consider for Farmers and Landowners:
- Do you have appropriate staffing levels to harvest and service demand? Review your contracts and consider the penalties for being unable to meet supply terms, particularly if you deal with supermarkets or wholesalers.
- Keep records of all discussions and all decisions you take and check to see if you have any business interruption insurance that might cover any problems.
- How will you ensure people self-isolate in accordance with the medical guidance if they contract the COVID-19 virus, particularly if they are in shared accommodation units?
- Can office based staff work from home? If there has been a reduction in income, consider whether the government’s ‘furlough’ scheme may be appropriate for office based staff.
- For farms that have diversified and include facilities appropriate for weddings, conferences and other events, commercial leases may require rent free periods. You should work with your landlord or tenant to ensure you can continue to trade and consider whether rent concession letters are appropriate.