On 6 September 2018, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, and the Environmental Secretary, Michael Gove, launched a two-year pilot scheme to support UK farmers.
The scheme will allow non-EU migrant workers to work on farms and then return after six months. The pilot scheme will begin in spring 2019 and will allow the recruitment of up to 2,500 non-EU workers.
Two scheme operators, who will oversee the placement of the workers, will run the Seasonal Workers pilot scheme. Details on who the scheme operators are have not yet been released and will follow in due course.
Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, stated that “This pilot will ensure farmers have access to the seasonal labour they need to remain productive and profitable during busy times of the year” and added that he is “committed to having an immigration system that reduces migration to substantial levels, supports all industry and ensures we welcome those who benefit Britain”.
The announcement comes as British Summer Fruits, the industry body representing companies that supply fresh berries in UK supermarkets are reporting staff shortages of 10-20%. The National Farmers Union (NFU) estimates that 60,000 seasonal workers are employed in UK horticulture every year, with approximately 67% having previously come from Romania and Bulgaria, 23% from other countries in the EU and just 1% from the UK itself.
The promise of an additional 2,500 workers will not fill the shortage but many believe that it is a step in the right direction, with the NFU branding the scheme as a “major victory”.
This is one of the first indications of how the Home Office may deal with labour shortages post Brexit.
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