For years now I’ve heard people telling me how good it is for your mental health to work in gardening but that’s not strictly true, sometimes it can destroy people. I’ve seen a few people brought to the brink of suicide by bad employers and/or pressures of running their own business. Gardening as a hobby is wonderful but when you work in it it can be frankly traumatic at times, and I’m sorry to be writing this but I’ve found myself having to be silent about this for too long.
Often when estate gardening you are working for a private employer with zero protection via a HR department and frankly the sort of people who have the financial acumen to employ staff rarely feel the need to know employment law, even if they do they rarely apply it in a way that is fair. After all in their eyes its their money, their estate, if they don’t like you or you object to being treated badly there is going to be another mug desperate to leave where they are ready to fill your boots. You are very expendable once you stand up for yourself.
If you are running your own business those problems can be applied tenfold as now you haven’t just got one employer you have 10 or 20, some of whom don’t understand cash flow, the fact you have to pay peoples wages/vehicle maintenance costs etc. Who will delay paying you that £50/100 quid cos its not a lot but if 10 people do this in quick succession it can mean you go bust!
There are wonderful supportive places with excellent managers, I’ve been very blessed to work in these places and I will be eternally grateful for them. I’ve wrongly made assumptions that sometimes bigger organisations would be less inclined to the bullying culture that can be endemic in some places. This kind of behaviour comes from the top down and it takes a manager with a strong backbone and a strong sense of ethics to combat this. Sadly its often those that enable and support this culture that survive. I’m not going to point fingers at anyone here as frankly it doesn’t take a genius to work out which employers might have issues. Most places that are that bad are sensible enough to pay people off and in these days the use of gagging orders is applied liberally. 3 months pay is the norm as by then the employee cant bring a court case…. but yes, gardening is good for your mental health…. unless you face being homeless and jobless through no good reason.
I know people who got sacked for asking for payslips, who were bullied out of jobs they had done successfully for 5 or 6 years, winning awards etc just because the management changed and they wanted people they chose put in place. endured sexual harassment, comments about their underwear etc. Bullied because they stood up for another worker who was being bullied because they were autistic, People who’ve had to endure employers having screaming fits at them. Bad references out of pure spite, you name it. Ask any full time gardener about what they have had to endure just to do the job they love, out in all weathers, rain or shine, just to provide beautiful spaces for everyone else.
The pandemic made us value these beautiful spaces but in a lot of cases it isolated those undervalued people further. So honestly before you consider a career in horticulture, be careful what you wish for….