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Labour shortage “biggest challenge” facing rural businesses
20 Dec 2017

A shortage of labour provided by EU nationals is one of the biggest challenges facing rural businesses, an employment specialist has warned. 

Partner at FBC Manby Bowdler, Julia Fitzsimmons said farmers and other employers in the agricultural sector are set to face problems with recruiting enough people for their business as the number of foreign nationals returning to their country of origin has already increased.

Rural organisations that rely on an international workforce to put British produce on the tables face up to the issues or deal with the consequences.

“There is always annual movement of the workforce, especially at the end of the farming season when work starts to dry up but this year, the numbers are considerably up on what you would normally expect,” she said.

“It appears that many foreign workers are heading back home, fuelled by the uncertainty of their rights in the UK.

“The Government has already indicated that visa restrictions will start to get considerably tougher next year and that could put off immigrant workers. It will make it harder for farmers in the UK to drum up a workforce, and recruitment agencies specialising in seasonal workers won’t have that pool of labour to draw from.”

The increasing costs of visas, new employment legislation that requires a job to be advertised first in the UK before it can be given an EU citizen, and moves to limit the ability of EU workers to bring family members, married or unmarried partners, and children with them are all likely to have an impact on rural businesses, said Julia.

“At the moment, Tier 2 visa applications cost from £437-£1,151, depending on the length of stay and the sector the applicant will be working in. For farmers, every increase in cost is a reduction in their already slim profits. 

“The Resident Labour Market Test, brought in off the back of Brexit, means employers will have to advertise a vacancy within the UK before giving the job to an EU or foreign national worker. UK workers who have the skills and ability can apply for the role first. But how effective will that be in unskilled, and notoriously hard, jobs in the farming sector?

Julia added: “The possibility of a massive shortage of labour could be one of the biggest challenges facing the rural industry in a generation. The possibility of a massive shortage of labour could be one of the biggest challenges facing the industry in a generation. For farmers worried about their position, and the legal implications of the changes to employment and immigration law currently in the pipeline, taking advice from a legal expert sooner rather than later could prevent even bigger problems further down the line.”

If you have any concerns relating to this article, contact Julia on 01952 208420 or

Meet Julia Fitzsimmons