The House of Commons has published a new report calling on the government to tackle abuse faced by seasonal workers on British farms. This follows revelations from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) that hundreds of migrant workers in the UK agricultural sector have raised welfare concerns, including threats, theft wages and racial discrimination.
The Horticulture Sector Committee’s report, published on Monday, proposed a number of new measures, including the government separating labor inspection from immigration services.
Citing concerns that workers are often prevented from reporting abuse for fear it could affect their immigration status, the report advises the government to “make provision for seasonal workers an official source of recourse not tied to immigration status.
“It also urges the Home Office to increase the budget for the Labor Crimes and Abuses Authority (GLAA), the public body responsible for overseeing the sector, and to earmark part of this money for Recruit inspectors for additional work.
It also urges the Home Office to increase the budget for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the public body tasked with overseeing this area, and to ringfence some of this money for the hiring of extra labour inspectors.
TBIJ reporter Emiliano Mellino identified these two steps as potential improvements to the system during a hearing with the select committee in June.
Mellino’s testimony was cited in the report, It calls on the Government to implement more ‘proactive’ regulations, which would see all casual workers receive the National Living Wage (£10.42/hour) and benefit from Work a minimum of 32 hours per week. And it recommends updated guidance clarifying this applies to the entire six months of their visa.
The current absence of such guidance has resulted in workers going for weeks without work or pay, evidence was given to the committee.
The report also recommends imposing mandatory third- to sixth-month social checks on farms using seasonal workers, with sanctions for those who do not comply with labor laws.
It specifies that all interviews conducted with workers during these surprise inspections must be anonymous, confidential, and available in the worker’s native language. “It needs to be made clear that this has nothing to do with their immigration status,” the report said.
In an investigation last month, TBIJ found that nearly half of the 845 workers questioned by the Interior Ministry during agricultural inspections between 2021 and 2022 raised concerns about Social Protection.
The Committee also advises the Department of Home Affairs to issue new guidance to ensure that health and safety standards for caravan housing workers are met.