Page 53 - Farm labour in the UK
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One employer reported having employed a small number of ‘great workers’ from the domestic labour market and would happily do so again. But the key to success, according to this employer, was that they needed to be extremely flexible as few workers wanted to live on-site. Many would drive long distances and required parking which had to be supplied.
“The whole management team had to motivate people in a different way. We redeployed, so our head of learning and development and our training officer went out to be like harvest managers. Out there dealing with queries and helping with communication, training constantly, sorting out where they were going to park their cars. Everything” (Farmer 3)
The same recruiter would, in hindsight, adapt their recruitment process, but is keen to continue trying to employ domestic workers for picking jobs in the future. The most important thing, according to this respondent, is identifying the motivating factor for applying for the job.
“If I was to change anything, in terms of an interview question, [I’d ask] ‘why do you want the job’? Last year [the answers] would have been: ‘I really want to help out’, ‘we really need to get lovely fresh healthy food on the shelves’, ‘I really want to be part of the food supply chain’. That is what we would have expected. Whereas if it was now I really would want people to be saying ‘I want to earn money’. You know? ‘I really want to work hard and earn money’. There is a kind of different motivation isn't there?” (Farmer 3)
The same respondent described how using domestic labour affected costs.
“We were having to give them an extra three pounds to pay the minimum wage. In terms of work rate, they would only earn five pounds [So, it was more expensive as an exercise to do that?] Yes because we were having to contribute three pounds for every hour that a British person worked” (Farmer 3)
Another interviewee believed that filtering for the right candidates should occur at the point of interest, such as the Pick for Britain website.
“The Pick for Britain website could help, but it would need filters on it, very clear filters, e.g. are you suited to agricultural work? Answer these six questions, because this is what’s required. Can you work seven days a week? Can you live on site? Can you work? Are you prepared to work no hours on some days and twelve hours on other days? So stuff like that which reflects not the fact that these are bad employers but the fact that a crop doesn’t stop ripening at five o’ clock on a Friday afternoon” (Labour expert 1)
The Pick for Britain campaign was eventually scrapped by the government in early 2021 as a result of the low take-up of domestic workers in 2020.
Further research is required examining the responses and experiences of the Pick for Britain campaign, highlighting in particular the lived experience of the domestic workforce in order to identify means by which to encourage workers to work in the fields in the future.
While many other countries suffering labour shortages have more lenient immigration restrictions, the COVID-19 pandemic created similar situations to that occurring in the UK, whereby new strategies were required in order to harvest the crops.
Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs

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