On 24th December 2021, the Government published the long-awaited review of the first year of the Seasonal Workers Pilot (2019), an evaluation carried out by DEFRA and the Home Office, which recognises a number of areas needing improvements, ‘particularly with concern to migrant welfare’.
FLEX has responded to the review, summarising and reflecting on key points, focusing on workers’ welfare and providing further insight by drawing on the findings of our own research in this area, which provides the first independent assessment of the experiences of workers on the scheme. It also provides a series of recommendations to further reduce the level of risk faced by workers engaging in this scheme and to ensure the effectiveness of future reviews.
The concerns raised in the review include workers not receiving employment contracts in their native language, lack of health and safety equipment, experiences of racism, discrimination and mistreatment, and unsafe accommodation. These findings are particularly concerning given the expansion of the scheme from 2,500 in the first year (2019) to 30,000 in 2021, when the review was published, without the risks first being assessed.
FLEX also has concerns around the effectiveness of the review given it relies on data either collected by the Home Office, DEFRA or the pilot operators recruiting workers onto the scheme, bodies which workers depend on to access work which may impact on their willingness to provide negative feedback.
Additionally, the review does not provide information on a number of key indicators of risk that would allow assessment of the risks of modern slavery or forced labour on the scheme such as debt, deductions to wages, confiscation of documents, resolution for workers, and access to compensation.
FLEX’s recommendations to Government to reduce the risks for workers and improve the effectiveness of future reviews include:
- making data available on a timely basis
- addressing gaps in data
- improving channels for workers' input
- assessing risks prior to expansions of the scheme
Read the full response here.
Contact: [email protected]