Producers in the agricultural and horticultural sectors are concerned that they could lose workers from abroad after 1 January 2021 because of the proposed points-based immigration system (PBS), which comes into effect on that date.
Under the PBS rules, workers wanting to come into the UK from abroad will need to earn at least 70 points from a list of criteria.
The three key ways to earn points are to be sponsored by an employer, which earns them 20 points; to be offered a job with a skill level of A level equivalent, also for 20 points; and to be able to speak English to a required level, which is worth 10 points.
To gain the additional 20 points required, the worker must be on a salary of at least £25,000 but this is unlikely for workers coming into agriculture or horticulture.
It will be possible to earn as little as £20,480 to gain the 20 points but only if the job is on the shortage occupation list. However, neither sector is.
Currently, there is no news on whether the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme will become permanent. If it is, it could be helpful, as it was expanded from 2,500 to 10,000 permits this year.
However, one potential option would be for producers to encourage any EU citizens they would like to re-hire to see whether they could apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Under the rules of this scheme, they can apply for pre-settled status if they have lived in the UK for as little as one day before 31 December 2020. If they have, they have the right to live and work in the UK for the next five years but do not have to live here full-time.