With seasonal worker recruitment impacted by COVID restrictions and the introduction of a points based immigration system in January 2021, the NFU and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has worked together to identify measures to support UK growers in attracting and retaining domestic workers.
The NFU is encouraging horticulture businesses with seasonal worker vacancies to engage with DWP, who can act as a point of contact between businesses and the unemployed, and help identify candidates that have the right skills and attributes for the roles.
This more targeted approach would minimise the recruitment challenges that arose during 2020 and ensure that jobseekers have a clear understanding of the sector and the skills needed.
Streamlined recruitment support
NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said that it is incredibly important for businesses to advertise their vacancies on Find a Job and to engage with DWP, who will be able to assist employers with specific recruitment needs.
“Like other developed countries around the world, the UK horticulture sector has been reliant on overseas workers for decades,” he said. “But the UK’s new immigration policy means this cannot be the only source of labour and, increasingly so, domestic workers will be needed to fill vacancies and undertake opportunities.
“Building relationships with local Jobcentres is critical to this. Their teams have been briefed about the requirements of the sector and will be able to talk to growers about their recruitment needs and identify suitable workers in their area. They can also discuss options, such as short-term work trials, which come at no costs to the employer when bringing new people in.”
The NFU is aware that businesses have found it incredibly hard to attract and retain domestic workers in the past. However, with a renewed focus and support from DWP, and against the backdrop of rising unemployment, the sector now has the opportunity to re-connect with a workforce that has new motivations to realise the benefits that seasonal horticultural roles can provide.
Tom Bradshaw continued:
“In addition, promoting roles through these channels will enable DWP to gather important evidence on the scale of vacancies and whether they are filled. This data will become increasingly important as the season progresses and attention turns to the long-term recruitment needs for 2022 and beyond.”
New opportunity for domestic workers
Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP said: “Our country is bursting with fresh talent and DWP’s collaboration with the NFU will help jobseekers boost their skills and reap the benefits of experience in the agriculture sector.
“From Penzance to Peterhead, our Plan for Jobs is supporting people to get back into employment and thrive in new work – and I strongly encourage employers to use our Find a Job site to recruit for these important roles.”
The support will not stop with seasonal workers. With peak season for horticulture fast approaching, the need for pickers and packers is pressing, but the NFU will also be looking to build links with DWP to help with targeted recruitment of workers for permanent horticultural roles, as well as permanent and seasonal roles in other sectors of farming.
Details for seasonal horticultural roles including how to contact your local Jobcentre Plus are included in this member briefing.
Details on cross sector work with DWP and information in how to contact your local Jobcentre Plus are included in this separate member briefing.