Support for local seasonal poultry recruitment

16 September 2022

Poultry
A picture of a seasonal worker plucking feathers from a turkey

With the availability of seasonal labour continuing to be a major challenge for the sector, we take a look at the support available to poultry producers via the local Jobcentre.

Confirmation that 2,000 visas for seasonal poultry workers will be made available each year until 2024 was welcome news for seasonal poultry businesses, although the number is likely to fall short of the sector’s requirements.

While we will continue to demonstrate the sector’s labour needs to Defra and the Home Office, seasonal poultry producers can also access support from their local Jobcentre to help with local recruitment.

In early 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced a nationwide push called ‘Way to Work’ to help people who are out of work access the record number of vacancies in the jobs market, including roles in food and farming.

How to access support from the local Jobcentre

If you don’t already have contact with your local Jobcentre, there is an online service that can help. Visit: GOV.UK | Contact Employer Services

Provide your contact details and a brief description of the role(s) available and a member of the local team will get in touch.

What can you expect from the Jobcentre?

You’ll be allocated an employment adviser at your local Jobcentre who can support your recruitment activity.

For national employers, a dedicated national account manager will be offered as a central point of contact.

By building a relationship with your main contact they can better understand your business and the type of people that will be suitable for the roles available.

This means that they can actively promote your vacancy to candidates and better match people to your roles. Their services are free, but a time investment is needed to build the relationship with your employment adviser to get the best results.

What services can the Jobcentre provide?

  • Introduce you to interested and suitable candidates through a variety of platforms, including job fairs and other events
  • Vacancy listing on their ‘Find a Job’ service
  • Working with you to help simplify and potentially improve your recruitment process so that they can put forward better-matched candidates to interview
  • Set up a work trial so you can see what potential recruits have to offer – candidates will continue to receive Universal Credit payments, so a wage is not required during the trial
  • Support via employment schemes, including help with employing people with a disability
  • Shortlist applicants so that unsuitable candidates are not put forward for interview
  • Arrange interviews at the local Jobcentre and provide a room for you to use, which from a site security and biosecurity perspective avoids the need to bring applicants to poultry sites for interview
  • Potential support is available to help candidates access work, which can include providing transport, equipment and training in certain circumstances

Universal Credit

The flexibility of UC (Universal Credit) payments means that it is much easier for job seekers to access seasonal roles than in the past.

UC payments can be adjusted or paused to reflect temporary earnings and quickly resumed once the seasonal employment ends, so claimants don’t lose out financially by taking seasonal roles.

Feedback

The NFU has regular engagement with the government on labour, so we’d be interested to hear any feedback from poultry businesses who have tried either successfully or unsuccessfully to recruit via their local Jobcentre.

Feedback can be sent to [email protected] 

Case study: Seasonal poultry handling

John Allsop is the managing director of Jonah’s Handling, a business that supplies labour for catching and handling of live poultry across the East of England.

John employs 45 people on a permanent basis, rising to between 80 and 100 during the peak Christmas turkey processing season. He has spent the past few years building a successful relationship with his local Jobcentre in Dereham, Norfolk, resulting in the recruitment of 25-30 local people into seasonal roles each year.

“Working with our Jobcentre has really improved our seasonal recruitment locally.

“I was struggling to attract good applicants through routes like Indeed, and following the Brexit vote a few years ago I was having to cast a wider net to try and replace the EU staff who had returned home. Add in Covid and the new immigration system and it’s difficult for small businesses like us to find the right people, particularly for seasonal roles.”

“We started working with our local Jobcentre a few years ago and over time we’ve got to know each other well and built a successful working relationship. It’s been a lot of hard work on both sides, but it’s the kind of partnership where you get out what you put in.”

“By visiting the Jobcentre, getting to know the staff and explaining how your business and industry works, you can help them understand what kind of people and skills you need. If they know more about your business and the roles available, they can match you with the right people.”

John Allsop, managing director of Jonah’s Handling

“By visiting the Jobcentre, getting to know the staff and explaining how your business and industry works, you can help them understand what kind of people and skills you need. If they know more about your business and the roles available, they can match you with the right people.”

“There can be challenges for some candidates, such as transport to rural areas, but the Jobcentre can help provide things like a scooter or help with driving qualifications to overcome those barriers.”

John Allsop, managing director of Jonah’s Handling

The partnership that John’s built with his local Jobcentre has meant they’ve been able to provide lots of support in his recruitment process.

“Once the work coaches at the Jobcentre understood our business they were able to better promote our roles to candidates and shortlist them for interview. They’ll also arrange interviews and give us a room at the Jobcentre to use, which makes life easier for me and often makes it easier for applicants to attend.”

“There can be challenges for some candidates, such as transport to rural areas, but the Jobcentre can help provide things like a scooter or help with driving qualifications to overcome those barriers.”

“I’d say the biggest advantage of getting involved with your local Jobcentre is their access to people. In agriculture we’re often all competing with each other to recruit the same group of people but the Jobcentre can help provide a pipeline of completely fresh applicants and an opportunity to bring new people into the industry. Our challenge is retention, but on the positive side, a good proportion of our staff move on to permanent roles in poultry or agriculture more widely. These are people that wouldn’t have even considered it beforehand and that’s something I’m really proud of.

“My advice to anyone who’s looking to recruit locally would be to get in touch with your local Jobcentre. There is absolutely a time investment in going in, presenting to the work coaches and building that rapport but otherwise it is essentially a free service that’s there to help get local people into work.”

Labour Turkeys

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