Migrant workers can aid Christmas food supply despite quarantine

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Workers from aboard can circumvent quarantine rules to help poultry processors over Christmas
Workers from aboard can circumvent quarantine rules to help poultry processors over Christmas

Related tags coronavirus

Seasonal workers entering England to work on farms ahead of Christmas will be allowed to work as soon as they arrive, circumventing quarantine rules.

From today (17 November), the temporary measures will mean seasonal poultry workers arriving from abroad will be able to work during their 14-day quarantine period. However, they will be required to self-isolate from the general public.

Seasonal labour entering the country under these new rules will be required to form cohorts where they can only live and work with a select group of the same workers during their stay and will be unable to mix with other employees.

Necessary workforce

The Department of Transport, the Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England agreed the decision would ensure food producers and poultry farmers have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate and potential risks to the Christmas food supply.  

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “It’s essential that farmers and food producers get the support that they need at this busy time of year, so it is good news that seasonal workers will be able to get straight to work once they arrive in the country.

“The run-up to Christmas is particularly important for farmers and food producers who need more workers on their farms to meet the festive demand.”

5,500 seasonal workers

Up to 5,500 seasonal workers arrive on English farms each year to help during the busy festive period. The season also increases demand for highly-skilled professional labour to help maintain animal welfare standards in jobs such as – but not limited to – slaughtering turkeys.

Despite the difficulties presented by the coronavirus, the Government was confident in the UK food supply chain, which proved resilient in spring and it claimed would do so again over Christmas.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: “Businesses up and down the country have faced unprecedented challenges from Coronavirus and these measures will ensure UK farmers and food producers are supported and able to keep up with the Christmas demand over the festive period.”

Meanwhile, farmers have welcomed the Agriculture Bill passing into UK law,​ gaining Royal Assent after more than 100 hours of debate in parliament, claiming the Government has listened to food standards concerns.

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