This page is for employers in agriculture and agriculture-related industries that use foreign labour. The topics addressed are terms and conditions of employment, pay and working hours. No information is provided here concerning security requirements, etc.
A written employment contract shall be concluded for all employment.
In the case of periods of employment shorter than one month, the employment contract shall be concluded immediately. In the case of periods of employment of one month or more, the employment contract shall be concluded as soon as possible and within one month following employment at the latest.
NB: The proof of employment/application and the immigration authorities’ decision on residence do not satisfy the requirements regarding an employment contract.
Section 14-6 (1) (a) to (m) of the Working Environment Act specifies the minimum contents of the employment contract. However, all of the employment conditions should be stated in writing, either in the employment contract or in another document. Examples of such conditions are rent for accommodation/free accommodation, other allowances and payment of salary in advance.
It is an advantage to conclude a written employment contract before the employee arrives in Norway. The employee is then aware of the conditions that apply before incurring travel expenses, etc.
An employment contract signed by both parties can be used as part of the application to the police instead of a proof of employment.
Note that employment conditions that are less favourable than the minimum statutory requirements, are not legally binding, even if they are agreed in writing. Such conditions may also be a criminal offence.
At http://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/arbeidsavtale you will find employment contracts for several languages with the text in both Norwegian and the language concerned. It is intended that this will result in common understanding, thereby preventing conflicts.
Seasonal manpower is employed temporarily, cf. also time limitation of permits issued by the Directorate of Immigration or the police. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority recommends that the parties set a clear final date in the employment contract. If it is uncertain how long the season and the work will last, the parties may agree that the employment will be terminated when the specific work is finished.
It is important that the wording gives the parties an equal understanding of the duration of the employment of each person, for example, in the event of gradual reduction of the workforce at the end of the season.
Written notice is not required when the final date is reached or the specific work is finished.
The parties may agree on a trial period. This shall in such case be stated in the employment contract. A trial period may normally only be agreed in connection with first-time employment. A trial period may have a duration of up to six months.
During a trial period, the employee may be dismissed with a short period of notice owing to unsuitability for the work, lack of proficiency or unreliability. The period of notice is 14 days unless a shorter or longer period is agreed.
Note that objective grounds must be given for dismissal during a trial period for other reasons than unsuitability for the work, lack of proficiency or unreliability, (e.g. little available work). In such cases, the normal period of notice applies, normally one month from the first day of the month following the date of dismissal, see below.
Before an employee can be dismissed, the matter shall be discussed with the employee and any employees’ representative. Notice shall be given in writing. When employment is terminated by an employer, there are a number of formal statutory requirements regarding form and content, including the right of the employee to demand negotiations after receiving notice of dismissal.
The shortest period of notice is as a general rule one month from the first day of the month following the date that the notice is given.
This means in practice that seasonal employees who are dismissed have a right to remain in their posts until the period of notice has expired. During the period of notice, the employer is obliged to pay wages even if he has no work for the employee. The employee, for his part, is obliged to work.
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority provides guidance on the rules, but does not decide whether a dismissal is objectively justified. This is a matter of private law between the parties, which may finally have to be decided by the Conciliation Board or by a court of law.
When employment is organized via farm relief teams or agricultural services, responsibility for the employment is divided between the farmer and the farm relief team, normally as follows:
The farm relief team must conclude employment contracts with the employees and ensure the quality of these contracts and that they are complied with. Where a single employee works for two or more farmers, the farm relief team has the overall responsibility for ensuring that the total hours worked by the farm relief worker do not exceed the maximum permitted by the Working Environment Act. See section 9.
If records of hours worked received by the farm relief team show that the employee will not obtain the minimum hourly pay for a full post, the relief team is nevertheless obliged to pay the correct agreed pay. The same applies to overtime pay and holiday pay.
Pursuant to the Immigration Regulations, employees are entitled to pay and working conditions no less favourable than those provided by the current collective agreement or what is normal for the place and occupation concerned. The guidelines of the Directorate of Immigration stipulate that a minimum wage be paid in the agricultural sector (NOK 90.50 per hour in February 2008). This wage shall be stated in the written employment contract.
Note that this minimum wage may be adjusted in the spring pay settlement.
Piece rates are the employee’s opportunity to earn more, not less. Piece rates must therefore be agreed in such a way that the minimum wage is always respected. Piece rates may thus not be used as an excuse for paying the employee less than the minimum wage stipulated by the immigration authorities.
When piece rates apply, the settlement date must be agreed in writing. However, during the period of work, the employee will be entitled to receive pay twice a month based on the agreed hourly rate, unless otherwise agreed.
It will normally constitute a breach of the conditions for the residence permit/work permit if it is not possible to give full working hours of 37.5 or 40 hours a week throughout the period. If two or more farms go together to offer a full post, it will, on application, be up to the immigration authorities to decide whether permits can be issued on this basis. In such case, a written employment contract must be concluded with each employer.
The work permit issued by the police or by the Directorate of Immigration entitles the holder to work for two or more employers. Each employer is responsible for providing a correct employment contract, pay, etc.
Chapter 10 of the Working Environment Act concerns working hours. The following general rules are provided:
The employer is obliged to ensure that working hours comply with the law regardless of whether the employee wishes to work as much as possible. The employer is liable to penalties for unlawful working hours regardless of whether the hours worked were in accordance with the wishes of the employee.
The employer will also be legally obliged to pay a minimum of 40% overtime supplement regardless of whether it has been agreed that a flat pay rate shall apply. See section 11.
The working hours provisions of the Working Environment Act apply to each individual employer. The Act thus does not preclude that the employee may work for two or more employers. However, this is not recommended since it may have a detrimental effect on both safety and efficiency.
When a farm relief team is the formal employer of an employee who works at two or more farms, this is not possible since there is only one formal employer (the farm relief team). See section 5.
Harvesting work may demand more work in certain periods and less in others. A written agreement concerning calculation of working hours according to a fixed average should therefore primarily be set out in the employment contract.
Pursuant to the Working Environment Act, the employer and the employee may agree in writing that working hours may be calculated according to a fixed average for a period not exceeding 52 weeks. However, normal working hours shall not exceed nine hours per 24 hours and 48 hours per seven days.
If the undertaking is bound by a collective agreement, calculation of working hours according to a fixed average may be agreed between the employer and the employees’ elected representatives. Maximum working hours of 10 hours per 24 hours and 48 hours per seven days may be agreed for a period not exceeding 52 weeks.
The limit of 48 hours per seven days may be calculated according to a fixed average over a period of eight weeks provided that normal working hours do not exceed 54 hours in any one week.
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority may, on application from the employer and following consultations with the employees’ elected representatives, consent to working hours calculated according to a fixed average for a period not exceeding 26 weeks. The daily and weekly working hours of, respectively, 13 hours and 48 hours are then permitted. The limit of 48 hours per seven days may then be calculated according to a fixed average over a period of eight weeks.
If working hours are to be calculated on the basis of a fixed average, a work schedule shall be prepared indicating the days and weeks when the employee is to work.
For employees who are taken on for a season, working hours must not be calculated over a longer period than the duration of the employment.
Overtime is all work in excess of normal working hours or in excess of working hours agreed for calculation according to a fixed average.
When working overtime, the employee has a statutory entitlement to an overtime supplement of 40% of the ordinary hourly rate. This amount shall always be paid, whereas time off may be taken in lieu of the overtime hours themselves. This must in such case be agreed in writing.
Even if the parties have agreed to flat pay for overtime hours, the employee may subsequently have a legal right to claim overtime pay from the employer for work in excess of normal working hours or in excess of the agreed basis for calculation of working hours according to a fixed average. See section 9.
Records shall always be kept of hours worked, and this also applies in the case of piece rates. Such records shall be available to the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. The records of hours worked provide a basis for payment of a minimum hourly rate if this is not obtained by means of piece rates, owing to a poor harvest or bad weather.
Both production lists and records of hours worked must therefore be kept.
The Working Environment Act has no provisions concerning supplementary payment for work on Saturdays, Sundays or at night when working hours are otherwise within normal working hours. Such supplements may be included in the employment contract or in collective agreements for employees who belong to trade unions.
Work on Sundays and public holidays and at night is only permitted when necessitated by the nature of the work. Sunday is normally included as part of weekly off-duty time, see section 9.
In some cases, the parties agree, for example, to harvest a crop of berries by tender, at an agreed fixed price, where the employees themselves are responsible for deciding their own labour input. This does not exempt employers from their obligation to record working hours, to pay the correct hourly rate or from other obligations that follow from employment by the farmer.
Holiday pay shall not be included in wages. Holiday pay at the statutory rate of 10.2% is always additional to gross pay. A seasonal employee’s employment is normally terminated when the employment contract expires. Holiday pay is therefore paid as part of the final pay settlement when the employee leaves. See section 16.
The pay slip shall show gross pay with a statement of any deductions, such as rent for accommodation, advances on pay, telephone use, etc. Additional allowances may be taxable, and neither the Tax Administration nor the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority can accept pay slips that do not state such allowances. Holiday pay shall not be included in the hourly rate. See section 15.
Construction work may be carried out as a periodical and natural part of the farm operations (painting, simple maintenance, limited building work).
When a work permit has been granted for agricultural work, it constitutes a breach of the conditions if the employee is mainly used for building work but is paid according to the rates for agricultural work. This also applies to further hiring out of labour. Such matters may be reported to the police. Generally applicable pay levels apply moreover also to Norwegian employees.
In February 2008, the following rates apply:
Note that the rates may be adjusted in the spring pay settlement.
Note also that construction workers shall be paid a minimum of 50% overtime supplement, not 40% as provided by the Working Environment Act. The Regulations on general application of wage agreement for construction sites in Norway are available at
http://www.lovdata.no/cgi-wift/ldles?doc=/sf/sf/sf-20061121-1291.html (In Norwegian).
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority’s information page on the Regulations on general application of wage agreement for construction sites in Norway is at: http://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/c26976/faktaside/vis.html?tid=40849 (In Norwegian).
A contractor is an independent firm that provides services to you, and invoices according to the agreement. The contractor employs his workers, and is responsible for pay, holiday pay, etc.
As both employer and hirer, you have an independent responsibility pursuant to the Working Environment Act to arrange your own activities and cooperate with other employers in such a way that both your own and all other employees are ensured a thoroughly sound working environment.
You are advised to check that the contractor is registered with the tax authorities and the Brønnøysund Register, and, as a contracting entity, you may request documentation of pay levels, etc.
When considering whether to enter into contracts with one or more one-man enterprises, a contracting entity must particularly assess whether the enterprises concerned function as genuine undertakings or whether they only function as such in a formal sense while in reality they are to be regarded as employees.
If, following such an assessment, one finds that one or more persons in reality have a relationship with the contracting entity indicating protection of a labour law nature, as provided by the Working Environment Act, the conclusion will often be that the arrangement bears a greater similarity to employment than to an independent contractual arrangement. The consequence of this will be that the rules that apply to employees will also apply here, regardless of the contracts that have been entered into.
Accommodation that the employer makes available to the employee shall be satisfactorily constructed, fitted out and maintained. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority supervises this, and may enter such dwellings.
A lack of fire safety will be reported to the fire authorities.
When the employee rents accommodation of his own accord, the employer has no responsibility, and the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority therefore conducts no supervision.
Reallocation of agricultural buildings as accommodation and erection of portable cabins are subject to notification of and approval by the planning and building authorities and the fire authorities. (However, agricultural undertakings are not obliged to obtain the consent of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority to erect industrial buildings, as are other industrial undertakings pursuant to section 18-9 of the Working Environment Act.)
Accommodation shall be of a generally high Norwegian standard. The requirements are set out in Forskrift om Arbeidsplasser og arbeidslokaler [Regulations concerning workplaces and working premises], order No. 529.
Test questions: Would you be able to accommodate your family’s guests there? Would it be acceptable for your family to live in such accommodation if they were working abroad? If you are sure the answer is “yes”, the accommodation is good enough!
The size of deductions for accommodation rent is a matter to be decided between the parties. Cf. the information on this in the proof of employment/application to the Directorate of Immigration /the police. The value of the rent may not be included as an invisible element of pay. For example, it is not permitted to pay only NOK 80 per hour while referring to the fact that employees have free accommodation. Use gross figures with deductions stated on the pay slip. See section 16.
Disagreements concerning financial matters must primarily be resolved between the parties. Parties that are organized in employees’ and employers’ organizations should resolve disagreements at the organizational level. If the parties fail to reach agreement, the matter shall be brought before the Conciliation Board in the municipality. Matters not resolved at a lower level must be resolved by the courts.
When employing foreign labour, it is especially important for the employer to ensure that satisfactory training is provided and understood. The employee is obliged to use protective equipment and to comply with safety instructions. Linguistic and cultural barriers may prove to be major challenges.
As regards rules concerning safety, training, use of machinery, etc., see below for other sources of information. The agricultural industry has also developed its own materials, for example in the HSE part of the Norwegian Quality System for Agriculture (KSL-systemet).
Click on the links at the right for more information on matters relating to labour immigration, legislation, employment contracts in different languages, social dumping and ID cards.
If you have questions, ring 815 48 222 for our Help Line. We can also refer you to Polish-speaking consultants.
See also http://www.udi.no and the UDI help line for employers, 23 35 15 33.
For the rules issued by other agencies, such as the Tax Administration, the Fire Service and the Planning and Building Authority, contact the nearest office of the agency concerned.