Recruiters on board to bring in the UK harvest

Recruiters are stepping up to help clients fill agricultural talent shortages.

Experts are predicting the shortages could lead to crops rotting in the fields as a result of insufficient workers to help harvest them.

The BBC reports the warning comes from Somerset-based Regency Purchasing Group, a procurement agency, whose feedback suggests 10,000 temporary workers are currently needed to fill labour shortages.

Commenting on the reasons for the shortage, Jan-Willem Naerebout, director at AGRI-HR, told Recruiter it is down to a mixture of Brexit, a plummeting pound and other European countries introducing tax breaks to attract seasonal workers.

“Recruiters, like ourselves, are needing to work really hard to attract seasonal workers for the sector using sophisticated media and marketing methodologies to reach those workers who are interested in seasonal agricultural work. Meanwhile the labour user are required to be more and more creative to retain those workers in their businesses. First class employment practices, as well as good seasonal accommodation, are now a must for these businesses.

“It is not all doom and gloom, however. The UK remains open for EU workers for the next two years with unrestricted access to seasonal work. The UK growers generally have a high standard of health & safety practices at work, as well as a good standard of seasonal worker accommodation. 

“The UK has enjoyed the fastest-growing minimum wage (living wage) in the last few years compared to any other EU country. The message to seasonal workers should be clear: the UK welcomes seasonal workers and the workers can expect a good living wage, safe working practices as well as a decent standard of seasonal worker accommodation.”

Meanwhile Marion Bird and Luis Martin at Cordant-owned Core Staff Services, told Recruiter there is currently a wide variety of jobs to choose from in the sector, meaning workers can pick and choose where they work. 

“The harder manual labouring jobs (field work) are no longer appealing to most workers, as they can earn the same money or more working in a factory setting with excellent facilities and conditions.

“We have also seen an increase of Eastern European workers that have been in this area for a number of years returning to their countries or going to different countries. We believe there are a number of reasons for this – one of them obviously being Brexit and the uncertainty of what the future holds, combined with countries like Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries often offering better working conditions and being geographically closer to their home countries.

The duo adds shortages of labour over the last few years are a reality, which has led to companies having to rethink their recruitment strategies in a number of ways, both in-house and with their labour suppliers.

“This had an impact on us since sole supply is no longer an attractive business proposition… we have seen companies increase the number of labour providers to three and four to be able to cope with their orders.

“We have had to develop a better relationship with our competitors who supply the same customers to ensure the customer gets the right number of staff. We believe the way forward is to pay workers slightly above the average and offer them better working conditions; we are currently doing this with one of our customers, and recruitment for them hasn’t been an issue.”

But Chris Pullen, CEO at Staffline, told Recruiter the firm is currently experiencing no issues with sourcing the labour that customers require: “We fulfilled 100% of our customers’ requirements during last year’s harvest season and expect to do the same this year.

“The size and scale of our network gives us significant advantage as this gives us great flexibility in how we deploy our regional labour pools.

“We know that those agencies that lack this flexibility do find fulfilment more difficult.

“A further observation is that the recently introduced government seasonal workers pilot scheme has created some confusion – giving the false impression of scarcity and need for the scheme. This is a small pilot involving the sourcing of a maximum of 2,500 workers, which is immaterial to the overall UK requirement which can be readily filled by the existing agency labour pools.”

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