FAQs – new temporary visa for abattoir workers

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Why is this sector facing problems?

The UK is suffering from supply chain issues in many sectors as the UK economy responds to the pandemic and post-Brexit employment issues. This has resulted in farmers warning of mass culls of healthy livestock due to shortages in those able to butcher the meat.

How will this scheme help to address problems?

It is hoped that allowing overseas abattoir workers to work in the UK will increase the workforce addressing the backlog of livestock butchery and help to meet increased demand for meat products over the festive season.

How many workers will be permitted to work in the UK under this scheme?

Current plans are set to allow 800 foreign abattoir workers enter the UK through a temporary worker route.

Who is an eligible worker under this scheme?

Overseas pork butchers are eligible to work in the UK using this visa. This is not limited to EU citizens, it applies to all non-UK workers.

When can eligible workers apply?

Eligible workers can apply up until 31 December.

How long does this scheme last?

Eligible workers will be granted a six-month visa.

Will this scheme alone be enough to tackle the shortages?

These temporary visas are part of a package of measures the government has introduced to tackle shortages. Other methods include extending work in the pork industry to Saturdays and introducing longer working days where possible.

Although we are waiting on further details, the government has also announced plans to fund a private storage aid scheme to enable meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for between 3-6 months so they can be processed at a later date.

Finally, the government has also introduced a pork levy holiday, which will suspend nearly £1 million of levy payments on pig farms and producers in November 2021.

How will this help in the long term?

It is yet to be seen how effectively this scheme will help tackle shortages. Crucially, the government refused to drop the requirements for trained butchers from abroad to speak fluent English, which has potential to significantly narrow the pool of eligible workers.

The government has stressed that relying on overseas labour is simply a temporary measure and that the pork sector must offer better training offers, career options and increased wages in a bid to attract more UK talent. However, until these methods are adopted, the UK will continue to be heavily reliant on overseas workers to help meet demand.

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 (a.christen@capitallaw.co.uk) for an initial chat.