Page 19 - Farm labour in the UK
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• Poor farm culture. This includes a lack of people- management skills, a lack of time or willingness to train workers, the lack of off-farm training opportunities provided by employers, poor delegation of work tasks, and a lack of 'forward thinking’ on the part of the employer.
“I think we don’t get as many of those people with ambition because of our image. But a lot of people will do their best to knock that ambition out of people, because they’ll give them the mundane jobs” (Farmer org 5)
• Lack of career progression within the employing business.
• The perception within farming communities that workers need to come from a farming background.
“I think there is sometimes a perception that unless you are from a farming background you can’t become a farmer and I think that’s something which needs addressing” (Labour expert 2)
There is a need for employers to open up opportunities to people who are enthusiastic but might need extra training/time to develop the skills.
“We had a young lady working for us who came from a non-agricultural background. One or two of my lot were looking at her going ‘why can’t you just jump on a tractor and go because we all know how to do that?’ But once we’d trained her she was fine. So you’ve just got to have a slightly different level of expectation” (Farmer 2)
• Children from farming families are discouraged from a career in farming due to witnessing events such as Foot and Mouth or the general challenges associated with farming in the current climate.
5 The practice of passing ownership of a holding to, typically, the firstborn son.
• Poor recruitment processes. Advertising in the main farming periodicals is reported to be prohibitively expensive, so many employers still rely on word of mouth or advertise inefficiently.
“A lot of people in the land-based sector are not great at writing job specs” (Service leavers 2)
• Traditional forms of succession are not necessarily putting the right person forward for the job.
“You need to decide who would be the best person to lead your business and then look for that person. Not look at your son and say ‘they’ll do’”(Farmer org 5)
The persistence of primogeniture5 or ‘keeping it in the family’ can prove limiting to business success. A recent survey of 688 farms in the U.K revealed that, of those with a potential successor, only 17.7% of these were identified as being female (daughters) (Wheeler et al 2020).
“One individual a while ago was looking at succession opportunities for their business and we spent the whole time talking about one of this individual’s sons who was neither eligible nor suitable to farm the holding. It wasn’t until we got to the end of the conversation that he mentioned he had a daughter. The daughter lives on the farm, worked on the farm, was involved on a daily basis and was certainly passionate about it and I said why haven’t you considered her for the succession and he just said ‘because she’s my daughter’ (Farming rep 3)
Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs

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