Seasonal Worker Scheme – latest information

An image of sprouts being harvested by field workers

Stay up to date with the latest developments on the government’s Seasonal Worker Scheme.

Latest news

The government has announced a five-year extension to the seasonal worker visa route until 2029. 

NFU President Tom Bradshaw hailed the news as a “huge relief” to the industry, following years of NFU campaigning.

The government has also committed to making 43,000 visas available for the horticulture sector in 2025, with another 2,000 visas for poultry. Details on the number of visas available for 2026-2029 will be published later this year, it has said.

The announcement was made as part of a package of measures in response to the Shropshire Independent Review into Labour Shortages published in June last year. The independent review panel put forward a number of recommendations including NFU asks to deliver a longer term scheme and ensure visa numbers remain sufficient to meet this industry’s needs.

New video helps applicants understand seasonal work

A new video, produced by Pro Force, and with support from GLAA and the Work Rights Centre, aims to inform potential applicants about the nature of seasonal work in the UK and to ensure they know their employment rights. With worker welfare being the priority issue for the industry, the video aims to ensure workers know what the work involves, what costs or fees are, or are not, appropriate, and what its like to live and work on farm.

Watch and share:

Seasonal Workers' Scheme - what to expect when working in the UK (Eng) from GLAA on Vimeo.

The GLAA has also teamed up with the operators to encourage the workers to download the Just Good Work mobile app to their smartphones. More than 10,000 people so far have downloaded the app which provides workers with critical information and access to help at every stage of their recruitment and employment journey.

Speaking about the measures being taken to ensure workers have a clear understanding of seasonal work in the UK, James Mallick, Compliance and Implementation Director at Pro-Force, said: “Providing open source access to information is vital in helping migrant workers make informed choices. We hope this video helps achieve those aims and supports other worker education projects like the Just Good Work app and the work being done by the International Organisation for Migration.”

Wage requirements 

During the NFU Conference 2023, Farming Minister Mark Spencer announced the removal of the seasonal worker scheme wage, meaning that workers' pay will revert to the NLW (National Living Wage).

The announcement follows months of extensive NFU lobbying set against a backdrop of major inflationary and input cost pressures for the horticulture sector.

The then NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw described the decision as having provided “great relief” to growers, with labour being “one of the highest costs associated with producing fruit and vegetables”.

Visa announcements

In response to the Shropshire Independent Review into Labour Shortages published in June 2023, the government has said 43,000 visas will be made available for the horticulture sector in 2025, with another 2,000 visas for poultry.

Details on the number of visas available for 2026-2029 will be published later this year, it has said.

Previously, Defra confirmed that 45,000 visas for seasonal workers will be available for horticultural businesses in 2023, as part of SAWS (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme) with the potential to increase this by another 10,000 if necessary.

The decision came following a letter the NFU sent to the Immigration Minister in November 2022 which included signatures from 160 members, expressing concern over visas for seasonal workers in the future.

Labour shortages

The NFU has been lobbying government on behalf of members on the urgency around the supply of seasonal workers and the pressing need for government commitment to the sector.

An NFU survey carried out during 2022, revealed that £22 million worth of fruit and vegetables has been wasted directly because of workforce shortages in the first half of 2022 alone.

Read more on how we've been representing you:

Extra workers needed portal

Do you need seasonal workers now? A new service from ALP (Association of Labour Providers) aims to match up horticultural and poultry businesses that need seasonal workers with GLAA (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority) licensed labour providers that have workers available.

The ALP has launched a new service to help businesses that have a requirement for seasonal workers with labour providers who have workers available.

The EWNP (Extra Workers Needed Portal) is hosted on the ALP website. For full details on how to register your business and your labour requirements, visit: ALP | Extra Workers Needed Portal

There is no cost to register labour requirements on the EWNP but if an ALP labour provider can satisfy an employer requirement, commercial terms may apply and will need to be agreed between the parties.

Please note that only GLAA (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority) licensed labour providers can supply seasonal workers for the agricultural and food processing and packing industries.

NFU lobbying – seasonal workers


NFU secures five-year extension to Seasonal Worker Scheme

The news follows years of NFU lobbying for a long-term plan for seasonal workers and was announced as part of a package of measures including a commitment to a further 45,000 visas for 2025.


NFU secures visa ‘reset’

The relaxation to the Seasonal Worker Scheme means that workers can return an extra month earlier in 2023. 


NFU successfully lobbies for the removal of the SWS wage


NFU secures scheme expansion to 45,000-55,000 visas


Extra 10,000 visas released

After the NFU submitted detailed evidence to Defra, demonstrating the level of demand from the industry, an extra 10,000 visas were released to bring the scheme total to 40,000.


Seasonal Worker Wages

The Home Office provided new guidance on the wage requirements for seasonal workers recruited under the Seasonal Worker Scheme, in response to our calls for urgently needed clarity.

NFU President Minette Batters pressed Defra Secretary of State George Eustice for clarity on this issue at NFU Conference in February: NFU22: George Eustice on the future of British farming.

At £10.10, horticulture businesses would be facing wage inflation of 13% against the current National Living Wage (NLW), and still 7% above the new NLW rate which comes into effect in April.

The NFU wrote to all the major UK retailers to set out members’ concerns and to highlight the impacts this new wage policy will have. 


NFU secures a 3 year extension to the scheme

The Home Office announced the Seasonal Worker visa route has been extended until the end of 2024, to allow foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months to pick edible and, for the first time, ornamental crops.

The extension of the scheme has been a key NFU lobbying ask as part of work that has seen a catalogue of evidence offered to the government.

The scheme also includes an expansion of 40k visas.


NFU works with the DWP to mitigate impact of COVID

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) worked together to identify measures to support UK growers in attracting and retaining domestic workers.


NFU secures another increase to the scheme to 30,000 visas


NFU works with Defra to launch the Pick for Britain campaign

The campaign encouraged domestic workers into seasonal roles. 


NFU launches Horticulture Seasonal Worker survey

The survey was completed by 244 horticultural growers, recruiting over 30,000 people. This equates to just under 50% of the workforce.

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: "While there was a fantastic response from Brits to the call for domestic workers this year in extraordinary circumstances, we see from the survey results that they only made up 11% of the workforce. Seasonal work on farm simply isn’t a viable solution for many."


NFU secures another increase to the pilot to 10,000 visas


NFU successfully secures an increase to the pilot to 5000 visas


NFU successfully secures a Seasonal Worker Pilot

Horticulture remains the only sector in the entire UK economy to have a ‘low skilled’ immigration route.

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Our manifesto

Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain's Future – outlines our key asks of the next government to ensure farmers and growers can continue to deliver for the environment, economy and local communities while producing more of the great British food we all enjoy.

This page was first published on 16 June 2023. It was updated on 09 May 2024.

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