Farmers and growers who fail to comply with post-Brexit rules on employing migrant workers could face large fines or even prison sentences from July 1st experts have advised.
Businesses employing workers who cannot prove they hold Pre-settled or Settled Status or have a valid Confirmation of Application (COA) will be breaking the law and could face stiff penalties. Experts have warned employers to be vigilant for forged documents.
The warnings come as labour rates for food industry and farming work have reported risen 10 to 15 per cent over recent months as the industry struggles to attract and retain workers. The NFU has urged farmers and growers to report issues to the government.
“You may also wish to set out the effects of any on farm labour shortages you are experiencing since the end of free movement in order to help amplify our existing messages regarding labour needs at a production level,” the union said.
Defra has opened a call for evidence specifically on haulage shortages that farmers have been encouraged to respond to.
Last week the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) spoke to more than 300 farm workers as part of an open day event across two fruit farm sites in Kent operated by Mansfields. GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jennifer Baines said, “We were pleased that the workers reported no issues and were happy with their working conditions. Engagement style events such as this allow us to engage with workers and their families outside of working hours in more of a relaxed environment.”