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HMRC internal manual

National Insurance Manual

From
HM Revenue & Customs
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Earnings Periods: Special Cases: Irregular harvest casuals

The ECH guide and EP manual provide guidance on an existing NICs concession in respectof irregular harvest casuals. The concession applies to certain casual workers engaged inharvesting outdoor crops and sets out a number of conditions. Where all of the conditionsare satisfied, the farmer is relieved of responsibility for operating the NI scheme inrespect of his irregular harvest casuals. The concession does not apply to any otheragricultural workers, including those casuals who are employed on a regular basis.

Where the conditions of the concession are not satisfied, a farmer must deduct NICs fromthe earnings he pays to his irregular harvest casuals in accordance with those statutoryrules dealing with liability for Class 1 NICs. To decide the extent of the liability it isnecessary to establish the correct earnings period to be applied. The following explainshow the earnings period is determined for those accepted as irregular harvest casuals.

NIM08004 explains that where earnings are paid at regular intervals the earnings periodprescribed by regulation 3 SS(C)R 2001 reflects the length of the period between which thepayments of earnings are made. A person who receives their earnings every Friday, forexample, is prescribed a weekly earnings period. NIM08004 also explains that an earningsperiod 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 aregular payment pattern can be established and the earnings period is prescribed underregulation 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 calculatedon the total earnings figure. This applies for however long that pattern of payment ismaintained, no matter how long the employment lasts.

NIM08100 explains that where earnings are paid otherwise than at regular intervals, andthe earnings cannot be treated as being paid at regular intervals, the earnings period isprescribed under regulation 4 SS(C)R 2001. The general rule within regulation 4 is thatthe earnings period is the length of the period of that part of the employment for whichearnings are paid or a week, whichever is the longer.

Regulation 4 is the regulation applicable for determining the earnings period of irregularharvest casuals. This is because workers engaged in harvesting crops are normally:

  • employed under a verbal contract of employment for one day’s work only
  • paid off at the end of the employment (the day’s engagement) either by reference to an hourly rate or rate per unit of picking
  • not offered work on the following day but, if work is available, may be re-engaged the next day or later in the same week
  • free to come and go as they please and to work on various farms for different farmers at any time.
  • subject to the prevailing weather conditions

Since the same farmer, or different farmers, can employ these workers on successivedays, alternate days or sporadically over several weeks, it often proves impossible toidentify a regular pattern of earnings for these workers.

Examples

A worker may work on a Monday and Tuesday at one farm, find no work on Wednesday becauseof bad weather, work on a different farm on Thursday and Friday and return to the originalfarm on the Saturday. The pattern of employment for the following week is likely to differagain.

A worker is offered work on Monday and at the end of that day is paid-off. The worker isaware that the farm has further crops that will need to be harvested and turns up on theTuesday to ask if further work is available. The farmer does have further crops to harvestand re-engages the worker under the same terms and again pays him off at the end ofTuesday. This pattern could continue for several days or weeks, subject to the weatherconditions and the available work.

Since no regular pattern of earnings can be established and the payments cover periods ofemployment lasting less than a week, the earnings period applied to each payment is oneweek.

Where an irregular harvest casual receives more than one payment of earnings in respect ofseparate, irregular engagements with the same employer in the same week, NICs arecalculated separately on each payment of earnings.

It is important to remember that an irregular earnings period is only appropriate to thoseworkers defined as ‘irregular casuals’ within the NICs concession; that is,those workers who:

  • are engaged on an irregular basis
  • are engaged in outdoor work to pick perishable crops
  • are not offered and cannot anticipate work for any longer than the engagement offered.

An irregular earnings period will not apply to regular casuals who are normallyemployed to undertake specific tasks at various times during the year, includingharvesting. This includes regular casuals who are engaged on a regular basis even thoughthey may be paid on a daily basis.

Whether the basis of employment can be regarded as irregular will be a matter of fact andshould be determined on a case by case basis.