If you have been queuing up in petrol station recently or worried about Christmas being cancelled then you, like most of us have heard about the UK government's recent announcement about issuing a total of 10,500 temporary visa's in an attempt to save Christmas! Will this be enough to plug in a gap of over 100,000 worker shortage or is this even a long term solution?
Lorry drivers & poultry workers
The policy represents a shift from the firm line against “low-skilled” immigration post-Brexit. Here is what we know about it so far. 5,000 HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry. A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available for the same short period, to avoid any potential further pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period.
Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and these temporary visas will be valid until 24 December 2021. The eligibility for this visa scheme is open to all nationalities.
It's disappointing that this will only be available for a limited period, which ends in December 2021, but it's better than nothing. We support upskilling our internal workforce, but we also need a system that can adapt to changing labour market needs. We are worried about the time it will take for these visas to be implemented, how employers can access someone with a visa, and whether European drivers will want to come to the UK for a short term especially since Europe is also facing a shortage of HGV drivers.
Temporary visa scheme
The new visas for HGV drivers delivering food and poultry workers will come under the existing seasonal workers' route framework. This temporary visa is a time-limited once-only provision that recognises the extraordinary set of circumstances facing the UK food supply chain.
We also note also the reference to the “food supply chain” and to HGV drivers “delivering food”, specifically suggests that eligibility for HGV Visas will be restricted to drivers in that one sector. If so, the measure is not designed to help with the present petrol pump crisis as has perhaps been assumed and is instead looking ahead to making sure there is food in the shops at Christmas.
Without this scheme, UK companies are currently not able to hire migrant HGV drives as it is not an eligible occupation to be sponsored under the current immigration rules. The roles like HGV Mechanic and HGV Instructors are allowed to be sponsored currently as skilled workers in the current immigration rules.
Sponsoring Seasonal workers
At present, normal Seasonal Worker visas are valid for up to six months. We know from the press releases that the intention is to give drivers/poultry workers an even shorter stay of up to 3 months with recruitment beginning in October and temporary visas to be valid until 24 December 2021. An important feature of Seasonal Worker is that employers cannot sponsor visas directly; that is restricted to a handful of agencies. The Home Office has now confirmed that the same will go for the desired 5,000 drivers and 5,500 poultry workers. Only approved scheme operators will be able to sponsor and recruit those with the necessary skills and issue them with a certificate of sponsorship. Once the applicant has the certificate of sponsorship, they may apply for a temporary visa.
Road Haulage Association said the announcement "barely scratches the surface", adding that only offering visas until Christmas Eve "will not be enough for companies or the drivers themselves to be attractive". Here is us hoping that more forward-looking policies and changes are brought about to help industries in dire need, as without that we all suffer in some shape or form.