SWS Taskforce update on Employer Pays Principle study   

May 17, 2024 10:00 am, Published by , Leave your thoughts

In February this year, the SWS Taskforce confirmed its continuation for 2024 with funding from 10 major retailers* and four Scheme Operators**, along with a programme of work for the 2024 season. One of the confirmed projects within this programme of work is “an economic modelling of the Employer Pays Principle in UK horticulture with potential implementation models.” (EPP study).   

The Employer Pays Principle states that: “No worker should pay for a job – the costs of recruitment should be borne not by the worker but by the employer”. The “costs of recruitment” are as per the ILO Definition of recruitment fees and related costs

The EPP study project was prioritised as a result of Taskforce discussions in 2023 with the primary objective being to reduce the risk of workers entering into debt for their migration costs. The project will include modelling for how costs could be equitably shared along supply chains, whilst also considering the sustainability of UK agriculture.  

An opportunity was identified to explore joint UK Government funding to extend the scope, breadth and depth of the study, and the SWS Taskforce and Defra seasonal worker team have worked closely on proposals.  

The outcome of this collaboration was confirmed last week in the UK Government’s announcement – within its response to the Independent Review into labour shortages in the UK food supply chain – on its “commitment to investigating the use of the Employer Pays Principle for the Seasonal Worker visa route”. The response noted that the Government is “proud to be working on this research proposal with the Seasonal Worker Taskforce” and that it has “committed funds for economic modelling in support of this project.”  

The SWS Taskforce welcomes the Government’s public commitment and will continue to work closely with Defra on next steps including on procurement for the project – which will be delivered by an organisation independent of the SWS Taskforce and Government; and governance – seeking the inputs of a range of stakeholders including growers, Scheme Operators, retailers and worker representative organisations. The expected start date for the project is Summer 2024.   

Notes: 

* The 10 funding retailers are: Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose. 

** The 4 funding Scheme Operators are: Agri-HR, Concordia, Fruitful Jobs and Pro-Force. 

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