Extra cost of hiring foreign farm workers after Brexit laid bare

Some of the additional costs in terms of time, money and effort which will be required to employ workers from abroad under the new Brexit regulations were laid bare yesterday.

Martin Kennedy

While workers from EU countries who have been resident in the UK since before the end of December 2020 have the right to continue working if they register for settled or pre-settled status, any new recruits will require sponsors and visas.

Speaking at a webinar organised by NFU Scotland which looked specifically at workers in permanent positions, rather than seasonal workers, union president Martin Kennedy advised anyone with permanent staff to urge them to register under the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

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Workers who had been in the country for more than five years could register for ‘settled status’ while those who had been in the country for less than that period could register for ‘pre-settled’ status which could be upgraded once resident for a continuous period of five years.

Lucile Giriat, an EU citizens support advisor with Citizens Advice Scotland, said that registering on-line for such status was straightforward - if all the required documentation was available.

But she warned that the clock was ticking towards the key deadline of June 30 and urged any foreign nationals to register quickly, as it was their individual responsibility to make the application.

"EU citizens have very little time left to secure their right to stay and to continue working in the UK after the end of June this year,” said Giriat, who advised anyone experiencing difficulties to contact Citizens Advice as soon as possible, especially if new or additional documentation had to be organised to verify that they qualified to apply for residency.

Jacqueline Moore, director of Immigration law with legal firm, Shepherd Wedderburn, told farmers that the ending of the EU’s freedom of movement for workers meant any business wanting to bring in full-time workers from abroad for positions such as dairy herd manager or agricultural contractor, had to apply to the government for a sponsor licence before they could do so.

But she revealed that this was only the first part of the process which placed both financial and legal obligations on a business wanting to sponsor visas.

And Moore warned that while the task had to be completed on-line, the Home Office website was now ‘14 years old and showing its age’ and required hard copies of documentation pertaining to the business to be forwarded for verification.

She stressed that those sponsoring a worker were required to declare that they would comply with the duties placed upon them by the Home Office – such as reporting changes in employment status or no-shows and undertake considerable and meticulous record keeping which was likely to be subjected to official checks and inspections.

Moore also revealed that a number of costs running into several hundreds of pounds were involved at various stages in the process and advised sponsors to think carefully about job titles under the skills list of the points-based immigration system.

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