Recruiters can’t be picky about finding workers for British farms

As recruiters warn they won’t be able to source enough workers needed by British farmers to pick their fruit and vegetables, Recruiter caught up with a soft fruit picking business whose fears around labour shortages last year were realised.

Reporting on survey findings from the Association of Labour Providers, the BBC revealed more than half the recruitment agencies polled said they could not find the labour even in the “quiet” first months of this year.

Last June, ahead of the autumn fruit picking season, Recruiter spoke with a director of a soft fruit supplier, who called on government to allow seasonal fruit pickers from the EU an easier ride into the UK or see firms like his go out of business.

Peter Thomson, a director at Thomas Thomson, told Recruiter he had “huge” concerns over whether his firm would be in business in two years’ time due to current labour shortages.

Providing an update to Recruiter this morning, the firm’s recruitment administrator Laura Woods revealed Thomson’s fears around labour shortages last year were realised.

According to Woods, the firm had required 220 soft fruit pickers but 60 of them did not arrive. This experience has led to Woods being more proactive, staying in touch and having regular email contact with people that have picked fruit for the firm over the past two years.

She added that while the bulk of the firm’s pickers come from Bulgaria and Romania, along with some from Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia, the firm might have to advertise roles in other countries to fill the picker roles.

Woods also said, however, the firm has reduced its reliance on recruitment agencies: “We’re requesting fewer people from agencies this year… In the past we’ve done most of the recruitment ourselves and in the last couple of years we started using agencies more heavily when our applications started dropping off.

“We’ve gone back to recruiting more ourselves – mainly so that we know what position we’re in, and it’s not a fortnight before we start picking and find out we’re 60 people short.”

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