Partner, Head of South West region
Shoots who use beaters and pickers-up may need to double-check whether they are inadvertently breaching rules on minimum wages and what and when they should be reporting to HMRC.
The rules surrounding the use of beaters are complicated, which is leading to confusion among shoot operators, including farmers running private shoots, about what they need to do to comply.
Property experts Strutt & Parker, legal advisors Michelmores and accountants Saffery Champness have produced a joint briefing paper to help guide landowners through the potential pitfalls.
The guidance note looks at the need for any lump sum daily payment to comply with the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, and also examines when shoots need to deduct tax and supply Real Time Information to HMRC.
Rhodri Thomas, Head of Strutt & Parker’s South West Region and an experienced shoot advisor, said: “This is a complicated issue, with one of the difficulties being that many beaters and pickers up do not view what they do as a job or employment, as they do it for pure enjoyment. However, the authorities may still class them as an employee.
“Where this is the case, the rules on minimum wage apply unless it is possible to prove to HMRC that the arrangement between the beater and the shoot meets its definition of a very casual arrangement.
“Many people will consider the rules unreflective of how shoots, and beaters, operate and will hope for a change in them. However, this is our understanding of the rules in place at the current time.”
The areas to consider include:
National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage
All ‘workers’ on a shoot must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, which applies to people under 25, or the National Living Wage, if over 25, for every hour that they work. This is a legal requirement and it is not possible to opt out.
“There are exemptions for anyone who is genuinely self-employed, but to prove this they would probably need to be actively marketing their services to third parties, rather than just being recruited by a shoot to be an integral part of it.
“People on a very casual arrangement, where there is no intention to create legal relations, would also be exempt. However, the typical lump sum daily payment that many beaters receive, plus the provision of benefits such as lunch and brace of pheasants, could well be construed as an intention to create legal relations - particularly if beaters are expected to turn up to scheduled shoots on set days.”
Best practice is for shoots to keep detailed records of the working time of all workers, excluding lunch and any rest breaks.
Using these records, they can then calculate what they need to pay per day in order to meet the minimum wage rates.
For example, a 55-year-old beater worked from 8am to 4pm with two hours off for lunch and rest breaks, would be working for a total of six hours. To ensure that they meet the NLW minimum of £7.50/hr, this means their total pay would need to be £45/day.
Lunch and the option to take a brace of birds do not count as pay and cannot be used to reduce the amount that needs to be paid to meet the NMW or NLW.
Deducting tax and Real Time Information
Shoots are responsible for accounting to HMRC for PAYE and National Insurance Contributions for any permanent employees.
Liz Brierley of Saffery Champness said: “This means that every such time an employee is paid, the shoot must tell HMRC how much tax and National Insurance has been deducted using the on-line Real Time Information system.
“Since April 2016, the exemption under RTI that allowed shoots to report payments to beaters on a monthly basis has been removed. This change now means all payments will need to be reported to HMRC within seven days.
“Shoots do not have to deduct tax and National Insurance from a worker’s pay if they employ them for two weeks or less as a casual worker. However, their pay is still taxable income and the worker must ensure that any tax due is paid. Some shoots choose to pay tax on behalf of the worker to avoid any potential underpayment.”
Shoots must keep records of all payments they make to workers for at least three years. This allows HMRC to track whether the worker has paid the tax required.
As a minimum, a shoot should have a record of the name, date of birth, gender, NI number, address and how much it has paid each worker.