Industry and non-profits unite to safeguard workers’ rights in the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme

In FNET’s fortnightly call today, industry trade bodies, retailers, suppliers, growers, recruiters, and non-profits came together to update each other on the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce to safeguard workers’ rights within the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme. The Taskforce is focused on implementing practical actions to improve the responsible recruitment and employment of migrant workers into UK farms, and to work with Government departments on the operation of the Scheme.

Concerns had been raised in previous seasons around exploitation risks faced by some migrant workers on seasonal worker visas during their recruitment and employment. In autumn 2022, a series of multi-stakeholder roundtables were held focussed on developing practical solutions to respond to these risks.

As a result of the roundtables, a number of working groups were established and a series of projects were funded by UK supermarkets and developed with industry input.  The projects included;

  • A preseason guidance document for suppliers.
  • 7 regional grower good practice roadshows in Kent, Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire, Cornwall and Angus taking place in March 2023 and a supporting good practice toolkit.
  • Development of a common responsible recruitment assessment of the Scheme Operators aiming to reduce audit duplication, improve effectiveness of assessments, increase supply chain transparency and drive continuous improvement in responsible recruitment practices. The assessment methodology was developed with the active participation of a wide group of stakeholders including supermarkets, growers, Scheme Operators and other stakeholders. More information and resources can be found on the Food Farm Help website.
  • Further development to the multi-language Just Good Work worker-information app – a free interactive mobile app, giving job-seekers and workers critical information and advice for everything needed on the journey to work, from recruitment, to employment and life in a new destination, to moving on or returning home. The Just Good Work app has been developed to include content specific to the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme. The Scheme Operators so far contributing funding to Just Good Work for 2023 include Agri-HR, Concordia, Ethero and Pro-Force.

The Taskforce is currently made up of over 50 organisations including retailers, growers, Scheme Operators, trade and membership associations, migrant worker community organisations and non-profit organisations, who actively contribute to and support the various working groups and activities. Taskforce activities are co-ordinated by the not-for-profit organisation, Stronger Together, as Secretariat, and governed by a multi-stakeholder Governance Committee representing all the groups involved. Moving forward, the taskforce will progress 5 workstreams focussed on improvements that can be made within the current design of the Seasonal Workers Scheme.

  • Education, information and grievance mechanisms
  • Due diligence and good practice during recruitment
  • Due diligence and good practice on-farm
  • Scheme costs, recruitment fees, retained earnings and remediation
  • Policy, enforcement and stakeholder communication

FNET are coordinating workstream 2 and 3 and are part of the Taskforce and many of our members are active participants in driving this initiative forward. We will share further updates in future blogs.

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