On 25th April, members and observers of the Seasonal Workers’ Scheme Taskforce held an in-person meeting to assess the Taskforce’s progress to date, measure its impact, discuss best ways of working with Government to improve the scheme’s design and prioritise Taskforce activities for 2023 and beyond.
This was the first in-person all-stakeholder meeting since the Taskforce was formally established in March 2023, following extensive multi-stakeholder collaboration following a series of roundtables in autumn 2022.
Stakeholders discussed progress made so far and next steps in each of the Taskforce’s five workstreams outlined below. These workstreams have been meeting regularly to identify and prioritise a realistic and impactful set of activities to make improvements within current Scheme design and to work with Government departments on potential changes to Scheme rules, regulation, oversight and enforcement:
- Education, information and grievance mechanisms – which seeks to support and enable provision of appropriate, comprehensible information to workers pre-decision, pre-departure, on-arrival and on-farm to inform decision making, manage expectations and drive a positive Scheme experience; and, review access to and effectiveness of existing grievance mechanisms and recommend future actions.
- Due diligence and good practice during recruitment – which seeks to increase understanding of country-specific risks, improve the quality and integrity of Scheme Operator assessment, and increase supply chain transparency to enable more effective due diligence
- Due diligence and good practice on-farm – which seeks to support growers to reduce risks and enhance the recruitment and on-farm experience of seasonal workers
- Scheme costs, recruitment fees, retained earnings and remediation – which seeks to make tangible progress on improving the overall finances of workers recruited to work in the Seasonal Workers Scheme including through eliminating worker-paid recruitment fees and related costs, maximising overall retained earnings and having a rights-compatible clear process and defined responsibilities for recruitment fee remediation including root cause analysis to avoid reoccurrence and abuse.
- Policy, enforcement and stakeholder communication – which seeks to refine the policy asks from each workstream and emerging areas, to be approved and authorised by the Taskforce Governance Committee.
The proposed next steps for each workstream will be discussed by the Taskforce Governance Committee for prioritisation for the rest of 2023, subject to funding available.
Progress was also presented on the series of projects that emerged from the autumn 2022 roundtables, funded by UK Supermarkets and with industry input; including:
- Regional grower good practice roadshows and toolkit reaching over 380 attendees and 150 different growers across 7 regional and 3 online events – with 82% of growers feeling very confident/confident about managing seasonal workers after the workshop compared to 59% before the workshop.
- Development of a common assessment of Scheme Operators, which is due to be rolled out with an initial cohort of Scheme Operators (each Scheme Operator paying for their assessment) in June 2023 and will include interviews with workers during recruitment in-country and once on-farm, and an assessment of management practices in line with scheme requirements and RRT.
- The further development and roll out of the multi-language worker-information app – Just Good Work (which some Scheme Operators also funded), which now includes updated seasonal workers’ scheme specific content and further translations, and worker outreach is now commencing.
Scheme Operators also presented updates on their recruitment progress thus far in the 2023 season and shared their key sourcing countries including:
− Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia within the EU
− EU neighbouring countries including Ukraine, Moldova and North Macedonia
− Central Asian countries including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
− Recruitment from further afield including South Africa, Nepal returnees, India and Bangladesh.
Businesses and non-profits interested in joining the Seasonal Workers Scheme Taskforce can contact email@example.com for information on the Taskforce Terms of Reference and further information on workstream progress and activities.