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Seasonal worker changes brought in by the Government

Napthens - March 2nd 2021

Introduced in March 2019, the Seasonal Workers Pilot has now been extended and expanded with up to 30,000 visas available. The visas are available for those entering the country and seeking farm work, for a period of up to six months. It was initially thought that the pilot Scheme would conclude at the end of 2020, but on 22 December 2020 it was announced that it would be extended for a further year.

The extended Scheme is managed by the Home Office, under Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Season Worker of the UK’s new immigration points-based system. DEFRA is the endorsing governing body who, in turn, have appointed ‘Pilot Operators’ to source and provide the labour for horticultural businesses.

How do I bring workers in under the Scheme?

With the ending of free movement of EU workers on 31 December 2020, many businesses will struggle to recruit seasonal workers, particularly in the Spring and Summer months. At present, there are two ‘Pilot Operators’ who can help businesses to recruit non-UK workers under the extended Scheme. These are Concordia and Pro-Force Limited and you can see more detail here: and

Please note, the extended Scheme can be used to recruit EU workers who are not already in the UK. However, many EU workers who are resident in the UK will already have the legal right to live and work here. Please do contact us should you have any queries regarding document checking for your existing workers.

What can I bring workers in to do?

The extended Scheme is currently limited to seasonal workers in edible horticulture, because this is where there is said to be the most significant seasonal labour shortages.

How do I plan my workforce under this scheme?

Given the temporary nature of the Scheme, it’s very difficult to plan your workforce beyond 2021. The Scheme is still lingering in ‘pilot’ status, its main purpose being to retrieve information and gauge an approach for future seasonal labour in the coming years and beyond. The NFU is lobbying to see the Scheme affixed as permanent and with an increase in the number of visa made available. In the meantime, the Government is encouraging business owners to increase efficiencies and invest in automation on farms, to steer away from the heavy reliance on manual labour.

All NFU members will be entitled to a discount on our legal fees for the review of these matters. In addition, they may also claim a contribution of up to £250 for the review and amendment of any legal documentation used by their business in relation to its employees.

If you'd like to discuss the above please get in touch with Angela Barnes in our Employment Team