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Solicitors
Decisive legal advice for businesses

The Equine industry is an area of numerous different relationships, for example between an employer/employee/working pupil/groom or a yard owner/horse owner or a seller/purchaser. Accordingly, there are stringent laws that apply in such different circumstances.

The particular issue with the Equine industry is that many of the relationships are built on trust, where it is almost unthinkable that people would enter into a written contract to govern the relationship between the parties.

This normally works, until something goes wrong and then a falling out occurs.

Prevention is better than a cure.

Employment Issues

Working with horses has long been considered as a vocation, rather than a profession. Having youngsters working and helping out at a riding school, with payment in kind of a free riding lesson, is fairly common place. Grooms will work significant hours, often in excess of the maximum working week of 48 hours, without ever having signed a derogation statement.

It is unlikely that a written employment contract has been provided, although an employee is entitled to a written statement of the main terms within 2 months of commencement of employment. It is also unlikely that an employee is to be paid holiday, pension and the ability to contribute towards state benefits.

For employers, it is important to consider the national minimum wage, particularly if they allow their staff to work more than their contractual hours whereby they must stipulate how overtime is paid. The Department of Works and Pensions view the equine industry as an excellent source of fines for non-payment of the national minimum wage.

There is also the question of the status of staff at a yard. It is common to take on people under the title “freelancer”, as an independent contractor, however especially in light of the recent Pimlico Plumbers Ltd case, tribunals are increasingly deciding that such a relationship is a sham and such workers are considered employees.

Care must be taken in respect of volunteers, which although will not create the employment relationship, expenses can be provided and sufficient insurance cover under the employers’ liability scheme should be obtained. However children under the age of 14 may not volunteer!

It is therefore essential for the yard owners and employers to make sure that they fully comply with their employment requirements, otherwise risk fines and potentially damaging claims from former staff. It is also prudent for those employees to understand their rights and not to “accept their lot” in respect of their working conditions.

Livery Issues

There are many types of livery – competition, working, full, part, DIY and grass. All with different levels of services involved and the respective costs per month.

For any yard owner and horse owner, it is important that such services are fully covered in an agreement and that there are no “surprises” which can lead to argument. For instance a limitation on the number of bags of shavings a horse can use per week, may cause issues if this has not been made clear from the beginning.

From a legal perspective, it is essential to clearly set out the responsibilities for the yard and horse owner.

For the yard owner, clauses in a livery agreement that you may wish to include are:

  • A lien and power of sale over a horse for non-payment of fees. Whether or not this clause is actually activated, it is useful to have this option as a backup provision;
  • Standard requirements such as worming, clothing and footwear, passport location;
  • Termination of the agreement in the event of unreasonable behaviour of the horse owner that could cause loss, damage or injury;
  • Restrictions on access and restrictions on visitors;
  • Recovery of legal costs when seeking to recover unpaid fees;
  • A mediation clause to attempt to seek early reconciliation in the event of a dispute.

For the horse owner, clauses such as the following may wish to be included:

  • Services provided that would not be standard, for instance turnout to an individual or shared paddock, number of hours turnout, daily routine or pasture management;
  • To be able to request sight of a record of the services provided;
  • Confirmation that staff at the yard are sufficiently skilled, competent and experienced to handle and/or ride a particular horse;
  • Insurance details of the yard owner;
  • Apportionment of the livery fee upon termination.

The importance of a clear and detailed livery agreement cannot be underestimated, providing certainty to both parties at the beginning, during and when ending the relationship.

Should you have any enquiries please do not hesitate to contact Sam Major – smajor@cheyneygoulding.co.uk