Agriculture: Seasonal Workers

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 29th April 2020.

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Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure farmers have access to the seasonal workers required to harvest crops during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The ongoing impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak have meant that there will be a shortfall in the numbers of workers who usually travel to the UK from Europe to work during the harvest season, with the demand for workers peaking from late May through the summer. We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people's plates over the summer months.

Farming leaders have already kick-started a recruitment drive for work on farms, with thousands of British people already expressing an interest in picking up seasonal agricultural work over the coming weeks and months. With many British workers furloughed from their jobs, and students having to put their summer plans on hold, the Government is supporting industry efforts to help farmers bring in this year’s harvest, working to build on these numbers.

The majority of roles for the early part of the harvest season have already been filled. We are closely monitoring the situation and we will shortly be launching a public- facing campaign to highlight the roles available from late May onwards and to encourage people to apply. The Government has confirmed that those who have been furloughed from their jobs due to coronavirus, and who are contractually allowed to work for another employer, can take on this seasonal work.

The Pick for Britain website is a recently launched joint Defra and industry initiative to support this effort. The website will act as a central hub to signpost people to the jobs available and to hold guidance and resources so growers, workers and industry can have a single place to go, available at https://pickforbritain.org.uk/. The website will also provide links to a wide range of recruitment campaigns organised by labour providers. The Pick for Britain website includes links to the Government's 'Find A Job' website, which will give access to a wide reach of potential applicants. The Find a Job website has more than 1.6 million registered users and is available here: https://findajob.dwp.gov.uk/.

Our farmers are doing a fantastic job of feeding the nation during this challenging time. To help our farmers, industry Best Practice Guidance for employers of seasonal agricultural workers to avoid the spread of coronavirus has also now been published, which has been endorsed by Public Health England: https://ahdb.org.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing-farm-businesses.

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