The Migratory Advisory Committee (MAC) review provides an opportunity to comment on national shortages in the labour market. Bear with me as the following is a little dry but it’s serious and we all need to respond by 6 January 2019.

In June, the government commissioned the Migratory Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a full review of the composition of the Shortage Occupation list (SOL). This comprises the job roles that are held to be in shortage in the UK, where it would be sensible to fill through non-EEA migration. The advantage of jobs being included on the SOL is that it removes the need for the Resident Labour Market Test or, critically, to meet the five year salary threshold for settlement – vital for valuable people who work within fruit businesses.

In order to work out which roles and titles should be added to the SOL, the MAC will use both national data and evidence submitted by stakeholders – we are all stakeholders and we should be responding, en masse.

We have to demonstrate that there is a national shortage that cannot be filled from within our home labour market, and that it is sensible to seek to fill vacancies with migrant labour from outside of the EEA. As this year, in horticulture, we were 10,000 people short of the number required to fill seasonal vacancies in the UK and the proposed non-EEA SAWS pilot permit number satisfies just 25% of our labour deficit with all predictions pointing to a far greater problem in 2019, we should be able to demonstrate this.

However, only jobs skilled to a level set by the Home Office are eligible for inclusion in the SOL and nor does it take into account seasonal vacancies – see below for suggestions about how one might work around this.

There is an online form with a series of questions related to specific job titles – the link to the consultation has been widely circulated by the ALP, it is on the MAC website and will also be sent, with guidance by the associated trade bodies to ensure that every grower has an opportunity to submit evidence supporting our need for seasonal labour. There will be events around the UK – with a list on the MAC site (URL at the end of this column) and if you wish to attend please email the MAC team when the dates and locations are published. Once the responses are in, the MAC team will take a view on whether it’s necessary to meet with industry professionals to discuss the details and the underlying issues around the vacancies.

It will take a little time to complete, and some patience. Just some guidance and a few heads up suggestions:

  • As growers you will need to answer the questions in Annex A, institutions like EAP, BGA and the NFU will respond to Annex B.
  • The SIC code required in section 8 would be 01240 which is growing of Pome and stone fruits
  • ONS job title and SOC codes – 9111 farm workers (which includes harvest workers) and 8223 tractor driver.
  • To overcome the exclusion of seasonal roles from this consultation, my suggestion would be to look at unfilled permanent roles and use the additional information sections to state vacancy data for seasonal workers. Sections 15 and 16 will give a good opportunity to talk about seasonal worker shortages in greater detail.

The call for data gives us many opportunities to push forward information on the increasing pressure and subsequent financial impact through lack of sufficient and suitable labour.