New app helps UK growers face gaps in labour force

As lockdown restrictions change, farmers will need a more flexible approach to finding workers to help harvest crops, and leading labour provider HOPS Labour Solutions is providing the answer with a new app called Picker.

Thousands of furloughed workers may need to return to work in the next few months, following Government announcements anticipated this Sunday 10 May. If businesses are encouraged to re-open, this could impact on the numbers still able to be part of a ‘land army’ to help pick fruit and vegetables.

HOPS’ new app, called Picker, offers both farmers and workers the flexibility required during the uncertainty of a pandemic, and allows them to make direct contact with each other.

Thousands of people in the UK rushed to sign up for harvesting roles but many furloughed workers were unable to give a long-term commitment to working on a farm. As restrictions look set to change over the coming months, many of these applicants may need to return to their usual employment.

A more flexible approach to recruitment during the Covid-19 crisis is needed for applicants and farmers alike – and Picker delivers on that need.

Picker makes it simple for a farmer to promote the roles available – that sometimes might be needed at short notice. Farms can state the time period required – and this can be for days, weeks or months. It also allows applicants the ability to restrict locations where they can work and state the length of time they are available for work. This more direct recruitment approach removes the need for a third party and speeds up the application process.

Using technology originally created for the hospitality sector, Picker will allow farms to post shifts, choose their favourite applicant and give the employer and employee the opportunity to rate each other afterwards. The ability to rate workers, offers farmers reassurances about the quality of UK labour they are recruiting.

Picker will also automatically handle all payment and HMRC compliant payroll – removing this hassle for farm businesses.

The app also offers a long-term solution for farms looking for temporary labour in the UK – such as students looking for work during the summer months.

The original version of the app was called limber and it reached over 50,000 workers in the hospitality sector and is used by hundreds of businesses from pop ups, to nationwide chains to football stadia. Since Covid-19, the app’s creators had been looking to find new ways to make use of their technology and have now signed an exclusive deal with HOPS to licence the technology, under the brand Picker. It will be available to download mid-May and workers and farmers can register their interest now.

HOPS Operations Director Sarah Boparan said: “The Covid-19 crisis is causing major problems for the horticultural sector with farmers understandably concerned about a shortfall in their usual labour teams. As one of the leading ethical labour providers in the UK, HOPS is focused on helping farmers get the support they need to harvest their crops during this challenging time.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amazing support from people in Britain who have stepped up to apply to help feed the nation but we quickly identified that farmers and workers are looking for more flexibility during this crisis and a more direct way to see the vacancies available. HOPS is really excited to be working with limber on this project and we believe it opens up long-term opportunities for HOPS beyond the Covid-19 crisis. We are hopeful that more people in the UK have now realised the opportunities available in the sector and will continue to pursue these roles.”

Chris Sanderson, CEO of the original app creators, limber said: “When we reached out to HOPS, we knew they were the right partner for us in the farming sector. Their industry knowledge and reputation alone were impressive, but it’s also really obvious they care about finding a way out of this crisis. We’re delighted to be licensing our tech out to them.

“Our experience of our own branded platform has proven that, if workers have flexibility, then they’ll be happier and more engaged for longer – and that flexibility can be a real asset for businesses too.

“Our app helps people work together for anything between one shift to one month or more. So by lending our tech to the farming industry, farms and UK workers will be able to work together – no matter how uncertain the outlook.”

Picker will cost a fixed rate of 15% charged on top of employment costs, which is considerably lower than a traditional recruitment model.

Farms and workers can sign up for early release of the app here.

Source: HortiDaily