Page 52 - Farm labour in the UK
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domestic workforce fulfilling edible horticulture roles in 2020 (Defra 2020d). Feedback from interested parties, employing farmers, third party organisations
Why was it not entirely successful?
According to respondents, the following reasons affected the ability to recruit domestic workers during the Pick for Britain campaign:
➢ Those applying were not made sufficiently aware of exactly what the job entailed. This partly counters the argument that Brits are ‘lazy’. Several respondents referred to the fact that a lack of awareness of what a picking job entails (early starts, long hours, physical labour, meeting targets) discouraged people who had not previously been made aware of these facts prior to taking up a post.
“They had no idea what they were letting themselves in for” (Farming rep 1)
➢ Furlough acted as a safety net for many of those who had shown initial interest.
“We did have quite a few phone calls of people looking for work. But they didn’t materialise once the work started, they didn’t want to do it, changed their minds or were doing something by the time it got to about June” (Farmer 2)
➢ Timings of the Pick for Britain campaign and actual demand for labour did not match up.
➢ Rural locations and lack of parking acted as a deterrent.
➢ On-site housing was not appealing to the majority of the domestic labour force.
➢ Lack of skill/experience meant that some workers were actually damaging crops so could not be kept on, e.g. strawberries (leads to wastage and threatens contracts with customers).
➢ While some employers were keen to increase numbers of domestic workers, others
and recruitment agencies also varies, but the overall sense is that recruiting and retaining domestic labour is a challenge.
preferred to ‘hold out’ for migrant workers to return.
➢ Restrictions eventually eased, opening up passage for migrant workers to travel, and decreasing the need to recruit local workers.
But was it really that bad?
Not all farm businesses reported a negative experience.
“It was great. We had an amazing response to our Feed the Nation campaign” (Farmer 3)
According to this particular respondent, in order to ensure the use of domestic labour worked, it was necessary to change the system of recruitment and working process. They said that interviews, which would normally be ten minutes long for migrant worker, would take half an hour for domestic workers, which when interviewing for thousands of positions is extremely time consuming. But this allowed the employer to describe the job and answer questions, ultimately discouraging any applicants not interested in the role from moving forward with the application process.
“Once we had done that people did turn up. And a lot of other growers have reported that people didn't turn up. But because we spent a lot of time with them pre-offer stage. We got to that stage and offered them a job, and they did come” (Farmer 2)
However, productivity rates dropped to approximately 60% of what would normally be expected and staff retention tended to be much shorter, at around 30 days rather than 6 months. Students apparently arrived with a set value to earn, after which they left, and as other industries slowly opened up again, workers gradually drifted back to jobs which they were more familiar with.

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