On Monday 13th June, the government launched a new Food Strategy, which will seek to address challenges faced by the sector. Recognising the sector cannot sustainably rely on migrant labour, especially in light of global pressures elsewhere, the strategy sets out that Government will commission an independent review to tackle labour shortages in the food supply chain, considering the roles of automation, domestic labour and migration routes.
To support the sector, the Government will release 10,000 additional visas for the seasonal worker visa route, with 2,000 of these going to the poultry sector for the eight-week period prior to Christmas. This is to cover the surge in demand for chicken, turkey and goose during the festive season and to ensure the smooth running of the food supply chain.
The Government introduced the Points Based System in 2020 which is designed to attract the skills and expertise which the UK requires. Acting upon advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the Government broadened the skills threshold of the Skilled Worker route and introduced a lower salary threshold which, as modelling by the MAC suggests, strikes a reasonable balance between access to labour and controlling immigration. The independent review’s consideration of the role of migration will therefore need to be with reference to the MAC’s advice. A number of roles in the food production sector are already eligible for a Skilled Worker visa.
For those roles in the sector which do not meet the threshold for the Skilled Worker route, there is the domestic labour market which includes UK workers and migrants with general work rights. The Government does not intend to introduce a route for those who do not meet the skills and salary threshold allowing recruitment at or near minimum wage.