Farm labour contractors
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Farm labour contractors must be licensed in B.C.
A farm labour contractor provides labour to producers in connection with the planting, cultivating or harvesting of agricultural products. Although the workers may work on a variety of farms owned by different producers, they are the employees of the farm labour contractor.
Producers must only use licensed farm labour contractors. If a producer uses an unlicensed farm labour contractor:
- They could be fined $500 to $10,000
- They may be held liable for unpaid wages as the employer of the farm workers
A licence is not required for:
- Farm labour contractors who operate solely in silviculture or in spraying or pruning trees
- Producers that only hire people to pick crops on their own land
Getting licensed: Submit your application package in plenty of time before starting work. Application review can take several weeks. Complete the following steps to avoid processing delays.
Know the rules and prepare for the exam. The licence application process requires you to complete the application form including the Farm Labour Contractor Examination. Your exam is marked once you submit your completed application package. You need 80% to pass. You can rewrite it if you don't pass.
The exam is based on requirements for farm labour contractors in the Employment Standards Act and Regulation:
- Duties of a farm labour contractor (PDF, 87 KB)
- Farm labour contractors must be licensed
- Licensing of farm labour contractors
- Additional duties of farm labour contractors – posting safety notices in vehicles
- Administrative fee – transportation costs
- If there is a change of directors or officers
- Exclusions from payment options (pay workers by direct deposit)
Submit a Farm Labour Contractor Licence Application (PDF, 1.3 MB) along with supporting documents by email to ESBDataIntegrity@gov.bc.ca.
Make sure that all information is accurate. Some details from your application form will be made available online so that producers can contact you. You must provide a physical address (include a PO box number if you have one) and a business phone number where you can be contacted at all times.
Direct deposit setup with your financial institution: Request a letter from your bank or credit union that confirms you have obtained their services to direct deposit wages for your workers. The letter must include the name and branch address of the bank or credit union.
WorkSafeBC: Provide your WorkSafeBC number and a clearance letter that states your account is active and in good standing.
Motor vehicle inspections: Provide inspection reports for vehicles used to transport workers from the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Vehicle Inspections & Standards Program. If you license other vehicles later, send inspection reports immediately to any Employment Standards Branch office.
Follow the instructions in the application. You can pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express) or cheque payable to the Director of Employment Standards.
Note: Debit cards (such as Interac or Visa Debit) cannot be used to pay the licence fee.
If this is your first application, you can only request a one-year licence.
If your licence was suspended or cancelled, you can only request a one-year licence. Licence fees are not refunded if a licence is cancelled.
Submit a bond in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit from your financial institution. Use the original letter – faxes or other copies are not accepted. The bond is retained for up to 12 months after the farm labour contractor’s licence expires. The bond may be returned prior to the 12 month period if:
- There are no outstanding complaints against the farm labour contractor
- No complaints are received against the farm labour contractor within the statutory complaint period of 6 months after their licence expires
Calculate the amount of your bond. Multiply minimum wage by 80 hours. Multiply the result by the number of employees included in the licence.
Here's an example for June 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021:
$14.60 (min. wage) x 80 hours =$1,168.00 x 25 employees = $29,200.00
Request a bond from your financial institution. Write a letter to your financial institution (PDF, 129 KB) to request an irrevocable letter of credit. This step can take up to two or three weeks. Make sure that the letter of credit includes:
- An expiry date that is 12 months after your licence expires
- An automatic renewal clause
- The farm labour contractor's legal name (e.g. Smith’s Farms Ltd. or John Smith operating as Smith Farms)
The bond is reduced when you renew your licence, if you have complied with the core requirements of the Employment Standards Act:
The number of years operating in compliance determines the reduced bond amount.
Submit your application package along with supporting documents by email to ESBDataIntegrity@gov.bc.ca.
Each application package is reviewed and assessed to make sure that a contractor will operate in the best interests of workers and producers. This process can take several weeks.
If your application package is complete, someone will contact you to schedule an interview.
If your licence is not approved, someone will contact you by phone (and follow-up with a letter) to let you know the reasons why your licence was not approved. Your bond will be refunded. Applicants who previously had their licence cancelled may be refused another licence.
Farm labour contractors must comply with the Employment Standards Act and Regulation. Register for an education seminar to find out about the responsibilities of farm labour contractors.
Specific licensing rules include:
Maintain a current, valid licence
The farm labour contractor must have the licence with them while completing licensed activities. They need to show it to anyone before they start working with them as a farm labour contractor. A copy of the licence must also be displayed in vehicles used to transport employees.
Report any changes
Immediately notify the Employment Standards Branch of any changes to the business, including change of address, phone number, number of workers, vehicles used to transport workers, etc. Corporations must apply for a new licence within seven days of any changes to directors or officers.
Manage vehicles and ensure vehicle safety
Maintain and inspect vehicles used to transport workers according to the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Act and Division 39 – Road Safety of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, including:
- Attach a valid inspection certificate to each vehicle and send a copy to the Employment Standards Branch
- Display a Vehicle Safety Notice (PDF, 265 KB) in each vehicle where the driver and all passengers can see it
- Make sure that anyone transporting employees has a valid driver’s licence for the vehicle they're driving
If there's a change in vehicles, provide an updated list of registration and licence numbers along with inspection reports to the Employment Standards Branch.
If a vehicle is removed from service and the provincial government provides alternate transportation, the farm labour contractor must pay a $500 administrative fee to the Employment Standards Branch.
Inspections are conducted regularly
The Agriculture Compliance Team visits farms where work is being done to observe operations, interview employees, review records and talk to the farm labour contractor and producer. Visits are not scheduled. Refusing to allow the team to visit could result in being fined $500 to $10,000.
Licences can be cancelled or suspended and a farm labour contractor could be fined for:
- Making a false or misleading statement in an application for a licence
- Breaching a condition of the licence
- Contravening the Employment Standards Act or Regulation
- Failing to comply with the Motor Vehicle Act, Workers Compensation Act, or Occupational Health and Safety Regulation
- Being ordered to remove a vehicle from service while it's being used to transport workers
If your licence is suspended, it can be reinstated once you are in compliance again. If your licence has been cancelled, you need to reapply.
The Employment Standards Branch investigates all complaints about farm labour contractors. If a complaint is received about your company, someone will contact you to get more information and try to resolve the complaint. If it is determined that you owe a worker money, the Director of Employment Standards may initiate collection to recover funds.
At least 30 days before your licence expires, follow the same process and submit another application package to renew your licence. If not, you could get fined for operating without a licence. You will not receive a renewal notice.
Farm labour contractors must pay farm workers
Workers must not be required to pay fees to get hired. Their wages must be deposited directly in to their bank account on payday.
Wages being paid to farm workers must be displayed at each work site and in every vehicle used for transporting employees.
Travel pay: If a farm labour contractor transports farm workers to a job site and does not provide any work, they must be paid the greater of:
- The minimum hourly wage for two hours of work
- The time spent travelling from the departure point and back to that place, or to an alternative place that is no further away and is acceptable to the employee
This does not apply if work is not available because of bad weather or other causes that are beyond the control of the farm labour contractor.
Farm labour contractors must keep accurate records
A farm labour contractor must keep a daily log at each work site that includes:
- The name of the producer and work site location to which workers are supplied
- The names of the workers who work at that work site on that day
- The names of each worker and the dates worked
- The site where each worker works on each day
- The fruit, vegetable, berry or flower crop picked on each day by each worker
- The volume or weight picked each day by each worker
Farm labour contractor records must be kept in English for two years after employment ends. Records may be inspected by the Agriculture Compliance Team.
If a farm labour contractor has employees, they must also keep payroll and employment records for each employee for four years.
Employment Standards Act
Employment Standards Regulation
- Section 5 Licensing of farm labour contractors
- Section 39 Exclusions from licensing requirements
- Section 40.2 Exclusions from payment options
- Section 5.1 Calculation of security
- Section 6 Duties of farm labour contractors
- Section 6.1 Additional duties of farm labour contractors – posting safety notices in vehicles
- Section 6.2 Administrative fee – transportation costs
- Section 7 Cancellation or suspension of a farm labour contractor’s licence
- Section 8 If there is a change of directors or officers
- Section 9 Rules about licenses
- Section 10 If a licence is refused, cancelled or suspended
- Section 11 Surrender of licence
- Section 12 Appeals from the refusal, cancellation and suspension of a licence
Ask for help
Farm workers and farm labour contractors can get advice and support to help resolve issues.