Updated rules for seasonal farm workers arriving into the UK

Seasonal workers arriving in England to carry out vital work on farms ahead of Christmas will now be able to work as soon as they arrive in the country.

The temporary measures published today will mean seasonal poultry workers arriving from abroad will be able to work during their 14-day quarantine period from 4:00am on November 17; however, they will still be required to self-isolate from the general public.

To avoid spreading the virus, they will be required to form “cohorts” meaning they only live and work with a select group of the same workers during their stay and they do not mix with other employees.

The decision, agreed by the Department for Transport, the Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England (PHE), will ensure poultry farmers and food producers, in particular turkey farmers, have access to the necessary workforce to mitigate any potential risks to Christmas food supply.

‘The busy festive period’

Each year around 5,500 seasonal workers arrive on English farms to help during the busy festive period which includes slaughtering turkeys.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:

“Christmas dinner is the highlight of the year for many families and this year it will be particularly significant.

Businesses up and down the country have faced unprecedented challenges from coronavirus and these measures will ensure UK farmers and food producers are supported and able to keep up with the Christmas demand over the festive period.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said:

“It’s essential that farmers and food producers get the support that they need at this busy time of year, so it is good news that seasonal workers will be able to get straight to work once they arrive in the country.

“The run-up to Christmas is particularly important for farmers and food producers who need more workers on their farms to meet the festive demand.”

Seasonal workers will be required to comply with a number of rigorous measures including:
  • Self-isolating away from the general public for the first 14 days – workers will stay in their work/accommodation bubbles with food and other required goods delivered to them by their employer;
  • Cohorting – workers will be placed in groups with whom they will live and work, without mixing with other workers, throughout their stay, to contain any potential positive contacts;
  • Covid-secure guidance – workers and employers will be provided with clear and translated guidance jointly developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and PHE;
  • Time limit – all seasonal poultry workers are required to leave England by December 31, 2020, at which point the exemption will no longer be in force.