A national survey of working conditions in the equine industry, commissioned by the British Grooms Association (BGA), has uncovered evidence that an alarming number of grooms are working illegally. Results published in April 2014 demonstrate that a number of employers in the sector are failing to provide adequately for their staff - and so the association is redoubling its efforts to drive fair working conditions for its members.
Nearly 1100 grooms and 160 employers responded to the survey, which highlighted that grooms are, on average, being paid more than £2 below the current National Minimum Wage. For those employed by businesses, the average wage reported was just £4.19 per hour. This rose to £4.90 for freelance grooms and fell to £1.96 for working pupils/apprentices. With the current National Minimum Wage set at £6.31 for workers 21 and over; £5.03 for 18 – 20 year olds; and £2.68 for apprentices the survey highlighted that the industry’s reputation for low pay is, therefore, justly deserved.
Retention within the industry was another area addressed by the survey which found that grooms initially felt ‘motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated’. But high turnover rates illustrate this outlook is not sustained; only 18% of grooms had been in their current role for over five years. Of those who left the industry, 57% cite 'poor working conditions' as the main reason for their exit.
The BGA now has hard evidence of poor working practices and has identified clear areas for improvement including: pay; training; structured employer feedback requirements, sick pay and holiday allowance.
Additionally, the survey found that conditions of employment considered normal in other industries were not often evident amongst the respondents:
- 56% of grooms did not receive pay slips, and 56% did not have a written contract of employment, both of which are legal requirements.
- Over 60% of respondents worked more than 5 days per week; 10% claim to work 7 days per week. A working week averaged 49 hours.
- 46% stated they did not get paid holiday.
- 45% did not receive sick pay of any sort.
- 70% did not get paid overtime or receive time off in lieu when they worked longer than their normal day.
- 90% are not paying into a pension fund of any sort.
- Only 20% have regular appraisals with their employer.
Worryingly, the survey found that of the grooms who were currently employed as either working pupils or apprentices, 55% had no training either planned, or being received.
Executive Director of the BGA, Lucy Katan commented; “Unfortunately these results come as no surprise to us; the current situation is untenable. We clearly need to offer further education to both grooms and employers, we simply cannot ignore or tolerate these illegal working conditions. With this evidence our industry must make the changes it needs to in order to modernise. Improved employment conditions for grooms will have a positive impact on the industry as a whole and are very long overdue.”
Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation, Andrew Finding, commented: “The evidence here points to an unacceptable situation in our industry. It seems that too many employers are breaking the law by not providing pay slips, contracts and all the other necessary elements of employment. Grooms are such an important part of our industry and need to be treated with the same care and consideration as any other employee. We encourage both parties alike to discuss openly between themselves what are private but vital arrangements so that the expectations of both parties can be met so as to prevent such inadequacies as are cited here.”
The survey was conducted under the auspices of the BGA by Georgina Brooke-Holmes and Dr. Kate Calamatta. For more information and for full results visit www.britishgrooms.org.uk.