Seasonal worker scheme operator reportedly has licence revoked

A seasonal worker scheme operator in the horticulture sector is believed to have had its licence removed.

Although the Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases, the NFU said it understood that the licence had been revoked, which meant that the unnamed operator would no longer be able to service its grower clients in 2023.

It comes as the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) launches an inquiry into the seasonal worker visa, including the potential for exploitation and poor labour market practice.

See also: NFU Conference 2023: Seasonal farmworkers to be paid living wage from April

This visa route has been running for four years and the Home Office reports that each year improvements have been made to stop exploitation and clamp down on poor working conditions while people are in the UK. 

Migrant workers are able to work on several farms during their stay in the UK, enabling them to pick flowers in early spring, or tree production in autumn, and then transfer to work in edible horticulture.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said the welfare of people using the scheme was “always of paramount importance for us”.

“We work closely with scheme operators who have responsibility for ensuring the welfare of migrant workers, requiring them to provide at least 32 hours paid employment per week and managing the recruitment process overseas,” said the spokesperson.

“We will always take decisive action if scheme operators don’t meet the conditions of the route.”

The Home Office urges people who suspect that abusive practices may be taking place to report this through its formal channels for assessment and potential investigation.

As it launches its inquiry, the MAC has stated that it has no fixed view on the merits of the scheme and is reviewing it now as it has been in operation for several years.

The review will involve engaging with stakeholders and the devolved administrations.

Defra is expected to publish summary reports of the annual surveys of workers undertaken in 2020 and 2021 very soon.

A summary report of the visa route in those years will also be published.