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Agribusiness News April 2023 – Input Costs: Seasonal Workers

3 April 2023

Seasonal Worker Sponsor Licences

The regulations of Seasonal Worker Sponsor Licences apply to any overseas national that a UK farm wishes to employ if they are not a ‘settled worker’ or do not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you in the UK. A settled worker would include an EU, EEA and Swiss citizen who has been granted pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme; Irish Citizens or a Commonwealth Citizen with the right to abode. To confirm criteria for immigration permission to work in the UK, Sponsorship guidance should be consulted.

Sponsor requirements

Seasonal workers can be sponsored for a maximum period of 6 months in any 12-month period. Individual employers and businesses cannot apply for a sponsor licence to bring in workers via the seasonal worker route. Only those who are Defra approved and licenced by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and therefore deemed as Approved Scheme Operators can do so. There are currently 7 operators approved specifically for seasonal worker licences. There are 45,000 visas for seasonal workers available for the horticultural sector in 2023 with an additional 2,000 visas for the poultry sector.

Modifications for 2023

Many seasonal workers arrived late to the UK in 2022 as a result of the war in Ukraine. Therefore, these workers will be permitted to re-enter five months after their 2022 leave expired rather than having to wait the full six months. This will only apply for 2023 to enable businesses to have staff in place for the start of the 2023 harvesting season. Normal rules will apply for 2024 onwards.

Pay for Seasonal Workers

The regulations of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) apply to Seasonal workers. The rates of pay are set on the 1st April annually. The minimum hourly rate for all workers as of 1st April 2023 will be £10.42 while those with qualifications in the sector they are working in would receive a £1.55/hour top up taking their minimum wage to £11.97/hour. Qualifications include a Scottish or National Vocational Qualification in agriculture or horticulture at SCQF Level 6 or above. This includes a Certificate of Apprenticeship in Agriculture. The Agricultural wages: A Guide for Workers and Employers is a useful reference document on pay, working hours and benefits for agricultural workers.  This guide is available in full in Bulgarian and Polish or there is an abbreviated document covering the key features in Russian, Belarusian, Moldovan, Romanian, Ukrainian, Nepalese, Latvian and Kazakhstani. Copies of this guide can be sourced by contacting SAWB on 0131 244 9750 or e-mail

Overtime for Seasonal Workers

Eligibility for overtime payments depends on the length of time working with that employer and the number of hours worked. For workers with up to 26 weeks continuous service, overtime must be paid when a worker works for more than 8 hours on any day or for more than 48 hours in any week. For workers with more than 26 weeks service, overtime must be paid when a worker works for more than 8 hours on any day or for more than 39 hours in any week. Overtime is calculated at 1.5 times the minimum hourly rate to which the worker is entitled.

Accommodation for Seasonal Workers

From 1st April 2023, any deduction an employer makes from a wage in respect of accommodation other than a house (caravans or static homes) shall not exceed £9.50/day.  The deduction must only be made for each day in the week that living accommodation is provided. The accommodation itself must be clean, wind and watertight and have met all legislative safety checks such as gas, electricity, and water tests for legionnaires disease.  To avoid worker exploitation, washing and toilet facilities should be provided on site.

Weather Protective Clothing

The provision of weather protective clothing for employees and the replacement of any clothing that is no longer fit for use is the responsibility of the employer, not the employee.

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