Page 16 - Farm labour in the UK
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According to a 2020 survey, the average salary of a farm manager in the UK was £49,543 per year, with a small minority earning in excess of £90,000 a year (Crane et al 2020). Farm manager salaries are shown to increase with age, and approximately 60% receive a fixed salary, with the remaining managers receiving a bonus and/or share of the profits. While non-cash benefits are still received by workers, these appear to be decreasing compared with earlier years4. Non- managerial, permanent roles in farming can earn anywhere between £14k to £27K or more, some of which will also receive non-cash benefits such as the provision of housing. One employer interviewed stated that their salaried staff earned, on average, approximately £45,000 a year, while a good herdsperson in dairy can earn up to £60,000 or more.
Seasonal work tends to be paid hourly or by piece rate (with a guarantee of minimum wage), with pickers able to earn between £8.72 and £15 an hour (Adkins 2020). However, some workers will have wages taken out for accommodation. Legally, employers are allowed to remove up to £4.82 from a worker’s pay each day if they are being housed in a caravan. Some employers have also been known to charge for ‘extras’ such as Wi-Fi, transport or social activities.
“We’re recruiting for a couple of full-time, permanent, reasonably skilled farm staff and we are struggling. Normally it’s ‘bang’ within a couple of days you can find somebody. We’ve had an ad out for three weeks now and we’ve not had a lot of response” (Farmer 2)
A Future Workforce and Skills Survey revealed that almost two thirds of agriculture and horticulture businesses reported that vacancies are taking more time to fill (FDSC 2020). This demonstrates a substantial increase when compared to a large survey
4 E.g. Provision of house rent, rates, lighting and heating, and private use of car.
carried out of farms in the south west of England in 2015, which saw just over a third of all survey respondents disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, ‘I can always find skilled labour when required (Nye 2017b)’. A similar response rate was received from farmers when questioned about seasonal labour. This section uses the available data to determine what the current shortages are by sector.
Horticulture is the sector most commonly associated with farm labour shortages in the UK. The horticulture industry is estimated to be worth approximately £3.7 billion to the UK economy (Defra 2020b). It has seen an increase of 34% in labour costs over the last five years with COVID-19 increasing this by a further 15% in 2020 (Pelham 2020). The last four years have seen significant fluctuations in the availability of labour. 2020 was a particularly unpredictable year for the horticulture industry due to the impact of COVID-19 on the arrival of migrant workers. The estimated labour requirements for 2020 were 87,121 roles (Table 1). According to the AHDB labour barometer, between 71 and 86% of horticultural businesses managed to find the labour they required over the peak season (Swales 2021). However, this came at a cost because i) turnover of domestic workers was high and businesses had to continually recruit and train new staff ii) productivity was lower and iii) extra costs were incurred due to the direct effects of COVID-19, such as paying for the housing of quarantining staff or for extra cleaning and hygiene maintenance (Pelham 2020). Horticulture is one of the most difficult sectors to mechanise, especially soft fruits.
There are currently around 13,000 dairy producers in the UK upon whom 80,000 jobs in the food and drink sector are reliant (RABDF 2017). Many of these holdings require additional labour but employers have reported challenges. A survey of 121 dairy farming businesses carried out by RABDF in 2020

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