Horticulture sector set to benefit from visa rule change

Horticulture businesses will benefit this season after the UK government relaxed rules to allow returnee migrant workers to come back earlier.

Following lobbying from the NFU, the government has agreed to allow temporary workers hired through the Seasonal Worker Scheme (SWS) to work in horticulture businesses to return to the UK after five months, rather than waiting the full six months from the end of their visa in 2022.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said the union has been “pushing for a visa reset in recognition of the impacts to recruitment that the Ukraine conflict had last season”.

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

“While this is only a modest change, it is an important one that will help growers this season and add further weight to our discussions over the length of visas within the scheme,” he added.

This update is a further improvement to the scheme, following an increase in the number of visas which will be available to horticulture businesses to 45,000 – an uplift of 30,000 compared with last year, and secured through NFU lobbying.

Union lobbying has also resulted in the removal of the SWS wage, meaning that workers’ pay will revert to the National Living Wage – £10.42/per hour from 1 April 2023.

The NFU has encouraged its farmer members to speak to their labour provider as soon as possible to ensure their returnees can take advantage of this important update.

The union is continuing to lobby the UK government to extend the length of visas for temporary SWS workers from six to nine months in future years.