Options for farmers to secure migrant labour from 2021

The government’s proposed points-based immigration system (PBS) looks like it could do little to help the agricultural and horticultural sectors, according to the most recent details.

Photo source: Tim Scrivener

Due to take effect from 1 January 2021, the PBS will require workers coming from overseas to earn at least 70 points from a list of criteria.

What are the limitations of the new scheme?

There are three mandatory requirements, which are:

  • to be sponsored by a specific employer (worth 20 points)

  • the job they are to be offered will need to be at a skill level equivalent to A-level (worth 20 points)

  • and workers will need to be able to speak English to a required level (worth 10 points).

To gain the additional points required, the job must generally meet the salary threshold minimum of £25,600 (20 points).

It will be possible to earn less than this – but no less than £20,480 – by securing “tradeable” points, but only if the job is listed as a shortage occupation (20 points) or, for certain roles (although none of these are in agriculture or horticulture), if you have a relevant PhD (10-20 points).

There is currently no pathway through the PBS for entry-level roles.

Similarly, no agricultural or horticultural roles currently feature on the list of shortage occupations, although the NFU is lobbying hard for them to be added.

The government is also saying that workers must be able to prove they can speak English at the equivalent of AS-level or pass a test to show this.

This requirement is likely to represent another significant barrier for migrant workers coming from non-English speaking countries.

“An accumulation of factors does mean the scheme as it stands is not well-suited to the needs of the agriculture and horticulture industries,” explains Rachel Chambers, NFU policy adviser on skills and employment.

“The costs associated with applying to the PBS are also likely to be offputting, with fees running to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Workers will also need to demonstrate they have enough funds to support themselves while in the UK.

Source: Farmers Weekly