Farms have been reporting a slowdown in EU labour since the referendum with it becoming more difficult to find seasonal farm labour.
The strong reliance of agriculture on EU nationals for seasonal work leaves the sector exposed to significant risk as uncertainty about what will happen to EU workers living and working in the UK continues.
A National Farmers Union survey found that approximately 90 per cent of British fruit, vegetables and salad are picked and processed by overseas workers. Thousands of farm workers are from overseas too.
Concerns are so high, that the government is looking at a pilot scheme to enable UK fruit and vegetable growers to recruit non-EU migrants between spring 2019 and December 2020, to address labour shortages during peak production times.
While the problems within agriculture are acute, many other sectors that rely on overseas workers are likely to face similar challenges as ‘Brexit day’ – 29 March 2019 – fast approaches.
Our advice is to start scenario planning at the earliest opportunity, looking at your current workforce and applying as many ‘what if’ questions as possible, so that when clarification on Brexit is achieved, your business is on the front foot in terms of the steps you should take to minimise any adverse impact.