Some may say its not the best time to be starting up a seasonal labour recruitment firm in the UK with Brexit and all the uncertainties surrounding it, or is it just the opposite? A time of great demand with many opportunities?
Jan Willem Naerebout who has been involved in recruiting seasonal labour for the UK market for many years thinks it is the perfect time as the UK is so short of workers. "From experience I have seen that the web-based direct recruitment model is the way forward. You need to go the countries and meet the people face to face, we keep the chain between the workers and employers very short."
He is recruiting mainly from Bulgaria and Romania as those countries have low incomes making earning opportunities in the UK higher. Jan also has recruiters who speak those languages, but he does not rule out recruiting from other countries as well.
"Expecting candidates to speak English would really limit the number of workers and our candidates don't need to speak English as it easily overcome as companies have supervisors who speak both English and Bulgarian or Romanian. The age of workers has widened since the days where SAWS, (Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme), was in place, that was aimed at 18-24 year old's. Agriculture has changed, especially in the UK with table top strawberry picking in polytunnels and vegetable harvesting has become semi-automatic, the work is no longer as hard physically and people into their 40's can now do these jobs easily."
The only thing workers have to pay for is their travel to the UK and Jan is trying to negotiate favourable rates for them.
One challenge faced in getting workers to come to the UK is the drop in the exchange rate, making earnings worth less back home, but on the positive side there have been increases in the minimum wage in the UK and most employers offer bonus schemes so the UK wage can be higher than in other countries.
According to Jan, the confusion over Brexit and free travel rights has been exaggerated. "When Brexit comes into place there will be a two year period which we are guaranteed that nothing will change concerning free movement and employment. The uncertainty lies in 2021 when the new regulations will come into place, but hopefully we will know more before that happens. At the moment there is a trial with 2500 non-EU agriculture workers, which could be a template for a much larger scheme post 2021."