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.
“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
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”.
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.
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 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.