Defra continues to work closely with industry and other Government departments to understand labour supply and demand, including both permanent and seasonal workforce requirements, and to ensure there is a long-term strategy for the food and farming workforce, including for the pig sector. This includes a series of roundtable meetings hosted by Minister Prentis with stakeholders from across the pig sector supply chain.
Since January 2021 the Skilled Worker visa route has been open to all nationals who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of working in a skilled role – including those in butchery.
Last autumn the pig sector faced some specific challenges due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of the Chinese export market for some processors, and access to labour issues. This included a shortage of skilled butchers which impacted the capacity of processors to kill and process pigs. In recognition of this, the Government announced in November 2021 that additional, temporary visas would be available for pork butchers to work in the UK for up to 6 months in addition to the existing Skilled Worker visa route. While applications for these temporary visas are now closed, pork butchers can remain in the UK for six months from the date their visa was granted.
In February 2022, the Home Office announced a series of visa concessions for temporary workers of Ukrainian nationality. Ukrainian nationals in temporary pork butcher jobs will have their leave in the UK extended to 31 December 2022 and will also be allowed to apply to the skilled worker route.
In addition, food and farming businesses can continue to rely on EU nationals living in the UK with settled or pre-settled status. Over 5.7 million EU citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme. EU nationals who have settled status can continue to travel to the UK for work in 2022 and beyond.
The Government also encourages the meat processing sector to pursue improvements to training offers, career options and wages to ensure that the sector draws on the large domestic labour pool in the UK, as well as investing in new technology across the industry.