28 September, 2021
The Government has announced that temporary work visas for 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers will be made available from October, in order to ease growing demand on the run up to Christmas. This means that workers will be eligible to come to the UK on a temporary basis in a bid to boost the workforce to transport, fuel and food and mitigate any risks to Christmas supply.
In addition to allowing more foreign nationals to come to the UK to work, there are other measures in the pipeline to recruit more HGV drivers into the industry. This includes plans to increase HGV testing capacity using Ministry of Defence examiners. As well as plans by the DVLA to send up to one million letters to HGV licence holders, encouraging them to return to the industry.
With the recent labour crisis having caused issues for a range of industries of late -from fast food chains to supermarkets and of course, most recently, petrol stations -the announcement to provide additional temporary worker visas will come as a relief to some. But how easy will it actually be to obtain one of these visas and is this enough?
The recruitment for additional HGV drivers and poultry workers will commence from the 1st October 2021 and whilst the press releases don't contain much detail, it is stated that they will be provided in line with an existing visa scheme. The visas will be valid for three months only and will have a blanket expiry date of the 24th December 2021.
In order to obtain the new temporary workers visa, it is suggested that like the existing temporary worker process; haulage drivers and poultry workers will need to be sponsored and obtain a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed employer and will have to apply with the correct paperwork and potentially pay visa application fees, in line with the existing route.
An alternative method of obtaining a temporary workers visa, has also been suggested whereby haulage drivers and poultry workers could turn up at the UK border and ask for a stamp granting them temporary permission to work in the UK.
If the process is in line with the current system for applying for a temporary works visa, foreign workers will be faced with various requirements to be eligible.
The British Retail Consortium has estimated that there is a shortage of around 90,000 HGV drivers. As such, the Department for Transport has explained that the recruitment of additional haulage and poultry workers via the Temporary Workers visa scheme is a short-term solution and have called for employers to make long-term investments in the UK workforce.
It is in reality, unlikely that EU workers are going to be attracted to come and work in the UK for such a short period of time. If these visas are to be operated via the current Temporary Worker process then only those employers with sponsor licences currently in place will be able to utilise this given the time scales for application, which would limit the use of the scheme. Whilst this is being billed as a short-term solution, it is not that workable given the limited numbers when compared with the numbers required and the likely compliance requirements of process involved. Some would question whether this is more of a PR tactic than a genuine solution to what is growing into a major issue.
For more information contact Amy Stokes in our Business Immigration department via email or phone on 0333 207 1157. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.