The UK government has announced an extension to the Seasonal Workers Pilot for 2021 with an “expanded quota of 30,000 places”. With this, the total number of workers that can travel to the UK for the picking and packaging of fruit and vegetables has been increased for the next year’s harvest.
These workers will be playing a vital role in “helping horticulture growers pick and package their produce in 2021”.
On March 6, 2019, was announced the commencement of the Seasonal Workers Pilot for 2019 and 2020 [the Initial Pilot] enabling the recruitment of a set number of temporary migrants for specific roles within the horticulture sector in the UK.
Recently, the UK government has announced the opening of the new skilled worker visa route. The Student and Child Student route had been opened in October 2020.
The UK has also reduced the earlier required minimum salary threshold of £35,800 for migrants to settle.
The UK requires around 80,000 seasonal farm workers annually. 99% of these come from countries within the EU, as per the Office for National Statistics.
While initially 2 operators [Concordia and Pro-Force] had been selected for the Pilot, there will be a requirement for another 2 operators with the Pilot extension.
The Extended Pilot – Seasonal Workers Pilot for 2021 – will continue to be managed by the UK Home Office through the T5 [Temporary Worker] Seasonal Worker immigration route.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] is the endorsing UK government department.
|Predecessor to the Pilot||
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme that ran from 1945 to 2013.
|The Initial Pilot||The initial 2-year Pilot [from 2019 to 2020] allowed a specific number of temporary migrants to enter the UK for seasonal work in the edible horticulture sector.
Under the new Temporary Worker route of the immigration system.
|The Extended Pilot||The extended Pilot for 2021 allowing 30,000 temporary migrants to enter the UK for seasonal work in the edible horticulture sector.
Under Tier 5 of the immigration system.
What is the difference between the Pilot and the previous SAWS?
There are 5 main differences between the Pilot and the pre-2013 Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme [SAWS].
- The SAWS of the UK was a contractual agreement between the SAWS operators and the UK Home Office. The Extended Pilot, on the other hand, is to be operated under the terms and conditions of the UK immigration system.
- While the SAWS had 9 operators, the Extended Pilot is to be managed by 4 Pilot operators.
- SAWS growers could recruit their own labor. Under the Extended Pilot, the Operator will be a third-party provider only and might not source labour directly for themselves.
- The Extended Pilot is a specifically designed scheme for trying out a new system for the management of migrant seasonal workers to the UK.
- Under the Extended Pilot, Operators will have certain additional duties and obligations as well.
Opening in 2019, the Seasonal Workers Pilot was designed for testing the effectiveness of the UK immigration system at supporting UK growers during the periods of peak production, while, at the same time, maintaining robust immigration control and ensuring the welfare of the migrant workers taking part.
According to Environment Secretary George Eustice, “The measures announced today will provide vital labour, both domestic and from abroad, to our farmers and growers to help gather the 2021 harvest to feed the nation. Our review into automation will pave the way for a pioneering and efficient future for our fruit and vegetable growers.”
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