IRD Update - November 24, 2016

If you have read the November update from IRD you will see they are reminding people about providing food and accommodation in return for work. We’ve had some people ask us how this affects them as WWOOF hosts.

The term “gain or reward” has been around for some time – it’s the government saying that not all people are paid with money. Sometimes payment is accommodation, food, travel, services etc. The difference with WWOOF is that WWOOFers are not supposed to be employees, they go to hosts to live and learn on an organic property, learn about volunteering, maybe even learn how to run and manage an organic farm or enterprise. This difference is very important but can be sometimes be difficult to distinguish.

The MBIE have said that “voluntary” work becomes “employment” when people have no choice over what hours they work and what duties they perform.

So an example of when someone would be considered an employee could be when you require someone to harvest and package produce for sale on a regular basis. They may stay in a workers accommodation on your property and you provide them food.

An example of a WWOOFer would be when someone comes to live with you and together you build some raised garden beds, they then learn how to germinate seeds and propagate plants in to the beds. The WWOOFer will spend some time gaining experience doing these activities.

WWOOFers can join in with commercial situations but care needs to be taken to ensure they are not being used to do jobs that a reasonable person would expect an employee to do. For example, if you visited a wine tasting room on a vineyard, you would expect the person serving you to be an employee, receiving minimum wage. There are however small enterprises growing heritage fruit, making cheese and other products that we know people find interesting and want to learn about.

Don’t forget that because WWOOFers are living with you, they will also become involved in the daily chores of the property which often include meal preparation and cleanup, chopping and stacking firewood, weeding the vege garden – just as anyone else living on the property would do. That’s just a normal part of life on any organic farm!

Some hosts feel the government should be confronted about the situation, while others who have tried working with the government say that they feel it would be counter productive to push for a change, they feel it may make things worse.

We do require hosts to be sensitive with this issue and not put WWOOFers in situations that would appear to be replacing an employee. We reserve the right to suspend of cancel membership in this case.

We are looking at some options to try and give WWOOF greater recognition. Current ideas to explore are:

1. Placing more emphasis on learning by offering basic online modules covering organic growing, composting, animal care, volunteering, tool care, homesteading/self-sufficiency how to etc. A bigger goal could be to become NZQA accredited.

2. WWOOFers to pay a small fee to cover food and accommodation. This would mean they are helping voluntarily, not in return for food and accommodation.

3. Something similar to WWOOF is the Au Pair set up – minimum wage is paid along with the IRD’s request for PAYE but this is worked out AFTER the cost of food and accommodation is deducted.

If you have expertise in any of these areas and would like to be involved please contact us if you have some suggestions or guidance.

Lets hope we can work on some positive solutions so that many more wonderful WWOOF experiences and friendships are made.