The Government has announced that the Seasonal Workers Permit Scheme will be expanded to 30,000 permits for the 2021 season. These permits will be in addition to those granted settled and pre-settled status.
The scheme will be open to workers from anywhere in the world and there will be no distinction between EU residents and residents outside the EU. the decision about where to recruit workers from will be down to the scheme operators.
For 2021, two new scheme operators will be appointed in addition to Pro-Force and Concordia who operated the scheme in 2020. The appointment of the two new operators should be complete by April and the industry has emphasised these new operators need to be in place as soon as possible to ensure the industry has enough workers at the start of the season.
Recruitment of domestic workers
The Government will also work with industry to build on this year’s Pick for Britain campaign and actively promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021.
Review into automation
Alongside the Seasonal Workers Pilot, Defra will lead a review into automation in horticulture, to begin in early 2021. The review will report on ways to increase automation in the sector and meet the government’s aim of reducing the need for migrant seasonal labour.
Although the number of permits may not be high enough to meet all the demands for seasonal labour, this is a significant step forward and against a difficult political backdrop of a commitment to control the UK boarders and a significant rise in unemployment, this is a major achievement by the industry. No other sector has been granted this concession. Defra has also indicated that it will keep the situation under review as the 2021 season progresses.
CEO, British Growers
23rd December 2020