Seasonal Worker Scheme – latest information

An image of sprouts being harvested by field workers

Latest news: Grower seasonal workers’ roadshows

All growers using migrant seasonal workers are invited to attend free workshops at venues around the country in February and March provided by the Seasonal Worker Task Force.

Morning workshop

A morning workshop aims to support grower good practice in recruiting and employing seasonal workers to help increase positive worker experiences of working in the UK and safeguard their rights. The workshop will provide an update on the Seasonal Worker Scheme for the coming season and an overview of changes to the UK Grower Seasonal Workers’ tool kit and check list.

There will be a focus on addressing some of the key challenges identified in the Defra survey of seasonal workers including:

  • Prevention and handling of worker complaints and grievances.
  • Optimisation of supervisor capability.
  • Understanding and handling of cultural differences.
  • Provision of accommodation and work equipment.

Afternoon workshop

An afternoon session will focus on seasonal worker supervisor training.

The aim is to equip growers with the knowledge to run effective on farm pre-season training for their supervisors of seasonal workers to improve supervisor people management skills and so enhance team operations.

Locations and dates:

Use the links below to register for the event:

The Grower Seasonal Worker Roadshows 2024 provided by the Seasonal Worker Task Force are funded by Agri- HR, Aldi, Asda, Concordia, Co-op, Fruitful Jobs, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Ocado, Pro-Force, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose.

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.”

Fruitful Jobs' licence reinstated

After a temporary delay, Fruitful Jobs has had its license reinstated and will continue to act as an operator of the seasonal worker scheme. Growers wishing to recruit workers through the scheme are encouraged to contact the scheme operators in order to register their demand as soon as possible.

There are six active operators that growers can approach. They are:

Inquiry into the seasonal worker scheme

The MAC (Migration Advisory Committee) have launched an inquiry into the seasonal worker visa. They intend to consider all aspects of the seasonal worker visa scheme, including;

  • the rules under which the scheme operates
  • the size and costs of the scheme
  • the potential for exploitation and poor labour market practice
  • evidence from international comparisons
  • the long-run need for such a scheme

The MAC have stated that they have no fixed view on the merits of the scheme and are reviewing it now as it has been in operation for several years. They wish to actively engage with stakeholders and the devolved administrations in the review.

The MAC have written to the NFU to alert it to the inquiry and to welcome the assistance of the NFU in gathering information for the review. The NFU will respond to the MAC consultation to provide stakeholder evidence.

NFU secures seasonal worker visa ‘reset’ for 2023

The government has updated its seasonal worker scheme guidance which includes a provision to allow returnee workers from 2022 to come back sooner in 2023.

Workers can come back to the UK after five months, rather than waiting the full six months from the end of their 2022 visa. NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw explained how the NFU has been “pushing for a visa rest in recognition of the impacts to recruitment that the Ukraine conflict had last season”.

“While this is only a modest change, it is an important one that will help growers this season and add further weight to our discussions over the length of visas within the scheme,” he said.

This update is a further improvement to the scheme, following NFU lobbying which secured a sizeable increase in the number of visas, and the reverting of the inflated SWS wage.

Members are encouraged to speak to their labour provider as soon as possible to ensure their returnees can take advantage of this important update.

Tom Bradshaw webcrop

“While this is only a modest change, it is an important one that will help growers this season.”

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

Seasonal worker scheme operator has licence removed

The NFU has learned that one of the horticulture seasonal worker scheme operators has had its licence removed and will no longer be able to service its grower clients in 2023.

NFU members can read our response at: NFUonline | Seasonal worker scheme operator has licence removed

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.

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

During December 2022, 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

2023

NFU secures visa ‘reset’

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

2023

NFU successfully lobbies for the removal of the SWS wage

2023

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

2022

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.

2022

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. 

2021

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.

2021

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.

2021

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

2020

NFU works with Defra to launch the Pick for Britain campaign

The campaign encouraged domestic workers into seasonal roles. 

2020

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."

2020

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

2019

NFU successfully secures an increase to the pilot to 5000 visas

2018

NFU successfully secures a Seasonal Worker Pilot

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

This page was first published on 16 June 2023. It was updated on 02 February 2024.


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