Experts say employment changes will not help growers

Government plans to require recruitment agencies to advertise all job vacancies in English in the UK will have little impact on the number of UK workers applying for seasonal horticultural work, labour specialists have said.

Announcing the proposals last week, prime minister David Cameron also revealed that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority's move from Defra to the Home Office last week is intended to strengthen its ties with other law-enforcement agencies including the National Crime Agency, which is active in 40 countries.

Cameron said of the moves: "These will help stop practices that exploit vulnerable workers and undercut local businesses that play by the rules. They will give workers in Britain a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting a job themselves."

But Rob Orme, the chief executive of Concordia, which recruits seasonal workers in central and eastern Europe to work in UK horticulture, told Grower the proposed recruitment obligation would have little impact.

"All our positions are open to UK residents and we already advertise in UK job centres, from which we get minimal interest," he said. "Those that do come forward are likely to be migrants already resident in the UK."

Echoing this, HOPS Labour Solutions operations director Glyn Smith added: "We are keen to help get UK workers back into work, but seasonal horticultural work is not the right place."

The regulations will also double the maximum penalty for employing illegal workers to £20,000 from next month, while the maximum fine for employers paying below National Minimum Wage will rise to £20,000 per worker.

Meanwhile, the Modern Slavery Bill will introduce tougher sentences, including life imprisonment for exploitative gangmasters.

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