Up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK in time for Christmas 2021 through the Temporary Workers route.
Seasonal labour has played an important role to address the challenges that the agri-food industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra has been working closely with the industry during this time.
News about poultry workers came as the Department for Transport announced that up to 5,000 drivers will be able to come to the UK to transport food and fuel in the run-up to Christmas.
The UK has a highly resilient food supply chain which has coped well in responding to unprecedented challenges. These decisions will ensure that farmers and food producers have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate any potential risks to Christmas food supply.
Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and this route will be valid until 24 December 2021. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), working with the Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will process applications, once made, in a timely manner.
The Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive, Ian Wright CBE, said:
We welcome the Government’s pragmatic decision to temporarily add HGV drivers and poultry workers to the existing visa scheme.
This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months - including in industry’s Grant Thornton report - to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has implemented an unprecedented package of measures to support workers and businesses right across the UK, as well as new reforms to ensure businesses have access to talent from across the world, so that we can Build Back Better from the pandemic and support the national economic recovery.
We are moving to a high wage, high skilled economy and the government is encouraging all sectors, including poultry, to adapt and make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options and wage increases and, to help with these efforts and long-term resilience, Defra is working with industry and DWP to raise awareness of career opportunities in poultry among UK workers.