What is the change? The U.K. will pilot a seasonal work permit program for farm workers next year.

What does the change mean? The pilot will provide up to 2,500 work permits per year to non-EU workers. The permits, which will be valid for up to six months, will be issued to help alleviate seasonal labor shortages. Officials will review the program at the end of two years to determine how best to settle on long-term solutions for labor needs in the farming industry.

  • Implementation time frame: The program will be implemented in spring 2019 and will run until Dec. 31, 2019.
  • Visas/permits affected: Seasonal work permits.
  • Who is affected: Fruit and vegetable farmers and non-EU farm workers.
  • Business impact: The seasonal work permits will help farmers meet labor needs during peak production times.
  • Next steps: Additional information, including whether the permits will be issued under the points-based system or as part of a separate scheme, is expected in the coming weeks and months.

Background: Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced the creation of the pilot program this week. Few details about how the program will be implemented are available at this point, but Gove said the pilot will “ease the workforce pressures faced by farmers during busy times of the year” and that officials “will review the pilot’s results as we look at how best to support the longer-term needs of industry outside the EU.”

BAL Analysis: The creation of the pilot program has received a muted response from U.K. farmers since the current shortfall of labor is said to be around 35,000 workers. That said, it is a sign that the U.K. is considering the needs of individual industries as it prepares to leave the European Union. BAL will continue to monitor the implementation of this program and will provide more information as it becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice and our network provider located in the United Kingdom.

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