The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) is an independent statutory body which sets the minimum wages and certain other terms and conditions of employment (eg, holiday and sick pay) for agricultural workers. The AWB reviews these minimum levels of terms and conditions annually and, following each review, makes a legally binding order as to the levels of wages.
In July 2010, in a drive to reduce costs, the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman announced reforms to various Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) bodies. The reforms included the abolition of the AWB.
However, in order for the Minister to have the power to abolish the AWB statutory authority is needed. This statutory authority is currently being processed through Parliament in the form of the Public Bodies (Reform) Bill. The Bill is unlikely to be passed until later this year, following which a separate statutory instrument will need to be passed by Parliament specifically in relation to the AWB. This is also likely to deal with the amendments that would be required to other acts of Parliament such as the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
The practical administrative steps of the abolition and the timeframe for the abolition of the AWB have not yet been publicised. However, the Environment Secretary has stated explicitly that it will be abolished.
The intention is that, following the abolition of the AWB, all agricultural workers will be governed by the National Minimum Wage and Working Time Regulations legislation. However, other than the current statutory protections given to all workers and employees in relation to terms and conditions of employment there are currently no proposals for any further controls specifically for agricultural workers.