Seasonal worker wages – new guidance provides clarity

17 March 2022

Horticulture and potatoes Farm business
An image of a vegetable picker carrying buckets of harvested produce through a field

The Home Office has 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.

The guidance confirms that, from 6 April, visas will only be granted to workers through the SWS (Seasonal Worker Scheme) where they will earn at least £10.10 for each hour worked.

The rules do not cover workers that have already secured a visa ahead of 6 April.

The rules do not apply to workers recruited outside the SWS.

“While the guidance has, rightly, been amended, these requirements still represent an unexpected 6.5% increase above the new National Living Wage."
Tom Bradshaw, NFU Deputy President

Previous confusion

The clarification from the Home Office comes after its previous guidance had indicated wages could be in excess of £12.31 an hour. This would have been a 38% wage increase on the National Living Wage.

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

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “There was significant confusion and frustration from growers about the wage requirements for workers recruited under the Seasonal Worker Scheme and urgent clarity was needed from government.

“While the guidance has, rightly, been amended, these requirements still represent an unexpected 6.5% increase above the new National Living Wage."

Lack of notice

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chair Martin Emmett raised concerns about the lack of notice for growers about these changes and the impact ongoing inflation could have on growers.

He said: “Growers have only been notified of these changes three weeks before they come into force and businesses across the country will be working hard to understand how it can be implemented and how these additional costs can be managed.

“With growers now heading into their busiest months of the year, we will continue to monitor the labour market. We'll assess the fallout from the Ukraine war on the labour market, particularly as Ukrainians accounted for 60% of workers recruited under the Seasonal Worker Scheme last year. We have been reassured by labour providers that they will be able to recruit and fill all 40,000 visas available under the scheme.”

Retailers – NFU action

The NFU has written to all the major UK retailers to set out members’ concerns and to highlight the impacts this new wage policy will have. The letter says that growers may feel they have no choice but to speak to their customers about how these costs will be absorbed across the supply chain.

Labour

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