Government aims to save Christmas with visa schemes

Christmas dinner

The government will temporarily add truck drivers and poultry workers to the existing visa scheme to help deliver Christmas.

Up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas 2021. This comes as the Department for Transport announced that up to 5,000 drivers will be able to come to the UK to transport food and fuel in the run-up to Christmas.

Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers and poultry workers will begin in October and this route will be valid until 24 December 2021. UK Visas and Immigration, working with the Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will process applications.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “It is a top priority to ensure that there are enough workers across the country’s supply chains to make sure they remain strong and resilient.

“We have listened to concerns from the sector and we are acting to alleviate what is a very tight labour market.”

The Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive, Ian Wright, said: “This is something UK food and drink manufacturers have asked for over the last few months – including in industry’s Grant Thornton report – to alleviate some of the pressure labour shortages have placed on the food supply chain.

“This is a start but we need the government to continue to collaborate with industry and seek additional long term solutions.”

British Poultry Council, chief executive Richard Griffiths, added: “The government’s move to allow temporary workers for the poultry meat sector will be welcomed by seasonal producers.

“Temporary workers from outside the UK have long been vital to delivering Christmas for our sector and given the unprecedented challenges of the last year they are needed more than ever. British turkey and goose are the centrepiece of Christmas dinners across the country and we are pleased that government has listened.”