Ongoing need for migrant workers but what do the new rules mean?

The UK government has extended a seasonal workers pilot programme, first launched in 2019, for an additional year. It has also expanded the programme, with 30,000 visas set to be made available for those wanting to come and work on UK farms for a period of up to six months in 2021.

However, at £244, the high price of the permits may be far beyond many potential short-term workers, especially those from the east of Europe.

What’s more, while the citizens of most EU countries – as well as Turks and Macedonians – are offered a 55 UK pounds reduction, Bulgarians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Romanians and Slovenians are not.

New restrictions

Seasonal workers coming to work on English farms will additionally need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before travelling as part of new tighter travel restrictions.

The government suspended all travel corridors from 18 January and will be implementing stricter testing and quarantine rules over the coming weeks.

The test must be carried out 48-72 hours before departure and anyone with a positive result will be refused entry.

Agricultural workers will also still be required to fill in a passenger locator form with their journey information, contact details, and the address of the farm where they will work and live.

This information must be provided up to 48 hours before they arrive in England. Government guidance says workers will also need to prove at the UK border they are a worker under the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme.

Employer letter

If workers are from the EU, this will require showing a letter or email from their employer confirming that they are an EU worker and will be employed as a seasonal agricultural worker. The letter should include their name and date of birth, the name and contact details of their employer, the work start date and the address of the farm where they will be living.

Anyone from a non-EU country will need to show their visa proving they are travelling under the pilot scheme.

The guidance says workers arriving to pick and package fruit and vegetables will continue to benefit from a travel exemption that allows them to start work immediately they arrive on farm if they are living on-site.

However, they must self-isolate on the farm for a minimum of 10 days.

A travel exemption that previously applied to ornamental horticulture workers has now expired ( as of 18 January).

Source: Farmers Weekly