Industry and non-profits unite to safeguard workers’ rights in the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme. 

March 16, 2023 11:56 am, Published by , Leave your thoughts

Industry trade bodies, retailers, growers, recruiters and non-profits have come together to establish the Seasonal Workers Scheme (SWS) Taskforce to safeguard workers’ rights within the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme. The Taskforce will focus on implementing practical actions to improve the responsible recruitment and employment of migrant workers into UK farms, and to work with Government departments on the operation of the Scheme.  

Concerns have been raised in previous seasons around exploitation risks faced by some migrant workers on seasonal worker visas during their recruitment and employment. In autumn 2022 a series of multi-stakeholder roundtables were held, focussed on developing practical solutions to respond to these risks.

As a result of the roundtables, a number of working groups were established and a series of projects were funded by UK Supermarkets with industry input; including regional grower good practice roadshows and toolkit, a common assessment of Scheme Operators, and a multi-language worker-information app, which Scheme Operators have also funded. 

Moving forward, the taskforce will progress a range of workstreams focussed on improvements that can be made within the current design of the Seasonal Workers Scheme. These include: improving workers’ access to information and communication; monitoring and improving practices during recruitment as well as  on-farm; and, addressing recruitment fees paid by workers and improving their overall earnings. The taskforce will also engage with Government departments and enforcement agencies on potential changes to Scheme rules, regulation, oversight and enforcement.   

The Taskforce is currently made up of over 50 organisations including retailers, growers, Scheme Operators, trade and membership associations, migrant worker community organisations and non-profits, who actively contribute to and support the various working groups and activities. Taskforce activities will be co-ordinated by not-for-profit organisation, Stronger Together, as Secretariat, and governed by a multi-stakeholder Governance Committee representing these groups. 

“Stronger Together has always believed in the important role of collaboration in driving progress on business and human rights. We’re therefore pleased to take on the Secretariat role for the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce and co-ordinate a diverse range of organisations that commit to a common objective of working together to help safeguard migrant workers’ rights throughout recruitment and employment.”

Hannah Newcomb, Co-CEO of Stronger Together

Responsible recruitment is a key focus for the working groups of the Food Network for Ethical Trade (FNET) and its members’ work on human rights. We are delighted to be supporting the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce and together to be accelerating collaborative action to improve seasonal worker welfare, and to support suppliers and recruitment intermediaries to improve supply chain practices for the 2023 season as well as in the longer term.

Louise Nicholls, Technical Lead at the Food Network for Ethical Trade

“Together with our members, the BRC is proud to be supporting the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce. Seasonal workers are an integral part of the supply chain, and only by working in partnership with farmers, scheme operators, enforcers, civil society, and the Government, can we strengthen and improve the scheme for future workers.” 

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium

“The Association of Labour Providers is proud to be part of the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce and we look forward to continuing to develop good practice for the Seasonal Workers Scheme. This continues the many existing collaborative projects designed to help safeguard migrant workers and ensure access to workers’ rights in the UK.” 

David Camp, Chair of the Association of Labour Providers

The Taskforce will communicate key developments as the programme develops and organisations wishing to engage should contact:    

Notes to Editors:  

The workstreams of the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce are:

  1. Education, information and grievance mechanisms
  2. Due diligence and good practice during recruitment
  3. Due diligence and good practice on-farm
  4. Scheme costs, recruitment fees, retained earnings and remediation
  5. Policy, enforcement and stakeholder communication

The organisations currently represented on the Taskforce Governance Committee are: Association of Labour Providers, British Retail Consortium, Concordia, Co-op, Ethical Trading Initiative, Fresh Produce Consortium, Focus on Labour Exploitation, Food Network for Ethical Trade, Gs Fresh, International Organisation for Migration, M&S, Pro-Force, Work Rights Centre and Worker Support Centre.  

The Supermarkets contributing funding to the autumn roundtables, Taskforce co-ordination and the funded projects are: Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose & Partners. The projects, which came out of the multistakeholder roundtables in autumn 2022, include: 

  • Seven regional grower good practice roadshows in Kent, Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire, Cornwall and Angus taking place in March 2023 and a supporting good practice toolkit.  
  • Development of a common responsible recruitment assessment of the Scheme Operators aiming to reduce audit duplication, improve effectiveness of assessments, increase supply chain transparency and drive continuous improvement in responsible recruitment practices. The assessment methodology was developed with the active participation of a wide group of stakeholders including supermarkets, growers, Scheme Operators and other stakeholders. More information on the assessment can be found on the Food Farm Help website.  
  • Further development to the multi-language Just Good Work worker-information app – a free interactive mobile app, giving job-seekers and workers critical information and advice for everything needed on the journey to work, from recruitment, to employment and life in a new destination, to moving on or returning home. The Just Good Work app has been developed to include content specific to the UK Seasonal Workers Scheme. The Scheme Operators so far contributing funding to Just Good Work for 2023 include Agri-HR, Concordia, Ethero and Pro-Force.  

Stronger Together is an impact driven, not for profit organisation that provides organisations with practical training, resources, business services and collaborative programmes. We work across three continents and within multiple sectors to achieve our wider vision of a world where all workers are recruited responsibly and have fair work, free from exploitation. 


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