In an attempt to address shortages leading up to the festive period, the UK government announced plans to grant 10,500 temporary visas to overseas HGV drivers and poultry workers. Here, Alex Christen and Aisling Beevers sum up what we know so far about the new route.
This scheme allows foreign nationals to work in the UK under a temporary visa as poultry workers or HGV drivers transporting food goods to help with demand over the festive period.
The scheme was expected to open at 4 PM on 11 October 2021.
Both employers and individuals need to make an application under the scheme before a worker can come to the UK.
Employers who need poultry workers and HGV drivers to transport food goods can request workers via a scheme operator.
The scheme operators will recruit the poultry workers and HGV drivers and issue them with a certificate of sponsorship. The individuals must then use the certificate as part of their application for a seasonal worker visa. Once they have the visa, they can come to work for the business in the UK.
HGV drivers allocated through the scheme must have an HGV licence recognised for use in the UK (category C or C+E licence). The scheme applies to EU, EEA, or Swiss licence holders only. Eligible poultry workers include butchers, poultry vaccinators, and poultry meat packers – for a full list of eligible jobs visit the government website here.
Employers need to contact one of the following four scheme operators:
The application process and costs for businesses associated with this scheme vary between each operator. Information provided by the scheme operators suggests that they will ‘score’ businesses who make applications in an attempt to fairly cover all UK regions, products, and organisations.
It has also been stated that the health and safety of workers will be considered. Successful businesses may also be audited before receiving confirmation of the number of workers the scheme operators might make available to them. Businesses should therefore make their applications as compelling as possible.
Poultry workers must apply by 15 November 2021, whereas applications for HGV food drivers can be received up until 1 December 2021.
Visas for poultry workers expire on 31 December 2021, while HGV food drivers’ visas extend to 28 February 2022.
The four scheme operators outlined above were selected through the Seasonal Workers Pilot, which is overseen by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and began in 2019 as a means of recruiting specific workers into in-demand roles in the farming sector. The pilot was extended to include two additional licensed sponsors, bringing the total to four scheme operators for employers to choose from when recruiting workers using temporary visas in defined areas.
The fuel and food shortages we’re currently experiencing in the UK are symptoms of labour shortages that have worsened over recent years, exacerbated by Brexit and the pandemic. The government’s decision to introduce new visas as a short-term solution is not a first – temporary migration schemes have been introduced around the world for decades, and since 2019 the “seasonable worker pilot” scheme issues six-month visas to workers picking up fruit and vegetables on British farms – but this time the panic is palpable.
Until longer-term solutions are put in place, such crises are likely to be recurring and to lead to the implementation of more reactive temporary visa routes. In this context, it’s essential that employers stay up to date with the latest regulations and make sure they carry out the appropriate “right to work” checks – or else they could accidentally hire someone illegally. Whether you need more information on the various visa routes available, or advice on how to conduct checks correctly, we can help. Drop us a line at (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an initial chat.