Living wages are paid

Case study - Piece workers who cannot achieve minimum wage

“I have workers who are lazy or not very good at picking. They never make minimum wage on piece rate but I can’t afford to keep topping up their wages. They have paid a lot of money to get here and I feel bad asking them to leave. How do I handle this?”

This is an ethical/moral dilemma for many employers. There are two things you can do to address this situation.


In your recruiting programme (especially if you are recruiting directly from abroad), you need to find ways to make it clear to workers what the work will be like and to evaluate whether they are suited to this type of work i.e. have the physical capabilities to carry out the work. This may require some thought on your part on how to best to define and communicate these requirements and then test workers capabilities BEFORE they invest money in coming to work for you.


If you have a worker on site who is not meeting the required standard when most other workers are able to, you need to talk to the worker to find out the reasons for their poor performance. They will often be able to tell you why they find the job difficult. This may be resolved through further training (either from you, supervisors or busying them with other good workers) or you may need to move the worker to another job which is more suitable for them e.g. in the pack house. Bear in mind that, if English is not their first language, you may need some help with translation to understand the problem and make sure the workers can participate fully in the conversation. If this does not work then you need to activate your disciplinary procedures (Chapter 9) and go through a series of verbal and written warnings.

If these workers are on SAWS, you can work with your SAWS provider to help resolve these situations. If the worker has freedom of movement you may be able to suggest other employers in the area that can offer more suitable work.

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