Seasonal Workers scheme extended to 2024

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Seasonal Workers visa scheme has been updated to run until the end of 2024
The Seasonal Workers visa scheme has been updated to run until the end of 2024

Related tags: Seasonal, Fresh produce

The Government has extended the Seasonal Workers visa scheme to the end of 2024 to allow foreign workers to pick edible and ornamental crops, but employers were warned this isn’t a long-term solution.

Plans were announced just before Christmas for a total of 30,000 visas to be made available this year (2022), with the potential to increase by 10,000 if necessary, before tapering 2023.

The changes followed a review of the seasonal workers pilot – launched in 2019 – which found the reliance on foreign labour held down wages, disincentivised investment and discouraged workers (both resident and non-resident) into these roles.

Forced to pay

Companies will be forced to pay those using the route a minimum salary to discourage poor conditions.

Minister for safe and legal migration Kevin Foster said the extension to the Seasonal Worker visa route struck the right balance of supporting the industry while it transitions to employing and prioritising domestic workers.

National Farmers Union vice president Tom Bradshaw said the announcement was positive news for the thousands of fruit, veg and flower growers that rely on essential seasonal workers to help pick, pack and grade fresh produce.

“These growers will be extremely relieved to have clarity over the future of the scheme for the next three years,”​ he added.

“With labour shortages so rife across the entire food supply chain, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and continue to engage with the government on the sector’s needs.”

Reliance in foreign workers

The Government acknowledged the sector’s reliance on foreign workers, but said it was committed to becoming making the UK a high-skilled, high-wage economy.

It made it clear more must be done to attract UK workers through offering training, career options, wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology.

Environment Secretary George Eustice added: "We had a seasonal worker scheme for agriculture from the time of the second world war and long before we joined the EU.

“We recognise that agriculture has unique and seasonal requirements for labour at harvest and have listened to our world leading fresh produce industry to understand their needs.”

Meanwhile, the number of emergency visas granted by the Government to pork butchers​ has been described as 'disappointing' by the British Meat Processors Association.

Related topics: Fresh produce, People & Skills, Brexit

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