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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/seasonal-workers-pilot-request-for-information/seasonal-workers-pilot-request-for-information
1. April 2019 update
Defra has now selected the two Pilot Operators who will be responsible for the process of recruiting workers:
The government is introducing a Seasonal Workers Pilot (the Pilot) for 2019 and 2020, enabling the recruitment of a limited number of temporary migrants for specific roles in the horticultural sector.
The Pilot will be managed by the Home Office under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Seasonal Worker category of the immigration system.
Defra is the endorsing government department, and is responsible for setting some of the key parameters of the pilot and for selecting two Pilot Operators. Once selected, Defra will endorse these two Pilot Operators to the Home Office. If agreed by the Home Office, the two Pilot Operators will be able to apply for a license to run the Pilot.
This document lays out the details of the Pilot, Defra’s expectations of any potential Pilot Operators, and it requests information from any organisation wishing to seek to operate the Pilot to enable Defra to assess their suitability.
The full list of questions for potential Pilot operators may be found at Annex A. The deadline for responses was 17 October 2018, in order to be considered as potential operator of the pilot.
Potential Pilot Operators are required to meet a number of minimum standards in their responses to some of the questions in Annex A, including:
- compliance with GLAA regulations
- capability to provide Pilot workers to growers and employers across the UK
- adequate systems, processes and policies to deliver the Pilot to the standard required by the Home Office
Full details of the process, rules and questions may be found below and at Annex A.
The government reserves the right to amend and update the requirements that the successful Pilot Operators will be expected to satisfy. Organisations seeking to become Pilot Operators will be informed of any such changes in writing and will, where necessary, be given opportunity to provide further supporting evidence.
3. List of definitions
|The Pilot||A new two year pilot allowing a limited number of temporary migrants to enter the UK for seasonal work in the edible horticulture sector, under Tier 5 of the immigration system.|
|Pre-2013 SAWS (SAWS)||The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme that the Home Office ran from 1945 to 2013.|
|Pilot Operator||A licenced operator of the Pilot, who will sponsor migrants for UK visas.|
|Potential Pilot Operator||Any party responding to Defra’s Request for Information.|
|Final Scheme Proposals (FSP)||The proposals the two Pilot Operators selected by Defra must submit to the Home Office for final approval. These proposals must be accompanied by a letter of endorsement from Defra.|
4. Indicative timetable
Please note this timetable may be subject to change.
|Deadline for request for clarification of questions||28 September 2018|
|Deadline for Responses||17 October 2018|
|Decision on Pilot Operators||31 October 2018|
|Pilot Operators submit FSP to Home Office||21 November 2018|
|Home Office accepts or rejects FSP||Early December 2018|
|Licencing of Operators||January – March 2019|
5. Selection Process
The process for selecting operators of the Pilot is set out below.
Defra identifies the Pilot Operators
(i) All organisations who meet the mandatory requirements and who wish to operate the Pilot are invited to respond to the Request for Information (RFI) questions at Annex A, which will allow Defra to assess:
- the capability of the organisation to deliver the Pilot
- whether they believe the organisation is able to meet satisfactorily meet the immigration control criteria required by the Home Office
- whether the organisation is able to meet the additional criteria on providing effective service to the sector, as defined by Defra
(ii) From these organisations, Defra will select the two Pilot Operators who score the highest in their responses to the selection criteria, and authorise them to provide Final Pilot Proposals to the Home Office.
The Potential Pilot Operator provides Final Pilot Proposal
(iii) The selected Pilot Operators will then submit a Final Scheme Proposal (FSP) to the Home Office. The FSP will require a detailed summary of how the operator propose to select, sponsor and monitor migrants, and adhere to all Home Office requirements in practice, including those on migrants safety and welfare. Each FSP will build on the Pilot Operator’s RFI response.
The FSP must be accompanied by a letter of endorsement issued by Defra. Defra will only provide a letter of endorsement if:
- the FSP is consistent with the organisation’s responses to the RFI
- the FSP is consistent with any other requirements Defra makes
- the organisation is on track to submit its FSP to the Home Office within the period specified by Defra
The Home Office makes the final decision on the final scheme proposal
(iv)The Home Office will review and make a final decision on the FSP.
(v) If the FSP is approved, the operator will be announced. Before they begin to operate, they will need to apply successfully for a sponsor license. Further information may be found at: https://www.gov.uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers
6. Description of the Pilot
The Pilot will be managed on behalf of the Home Office by two licensed Pilot Operators. The details of the Pilot are set out in the section below.
6.1 Differences between the Pilot and pre-2013 SAWS
Potential Pilot Operators may be familiar with the pre-2013 SAWS, so it is important to highlight the key differences between SAWS and the Pilot.
- SAWS was a contractual arrangement between the Home Office and SAWS operators. By contrast, the Pilot will be operated under the terms and conditions of the immigration system. There are four tiers to the UK’s immigration system. Each tier contains several different visa categories (and some sub-categories), with varying associated conditions and mandatory eligibility requirements1
- The Pilot will be managed by two Pilot Operators, while SAWS had nine operators
- Under the Pilot, the operator may not source labour for themselves, only as a third party provider, whereas in the pre-2013 SAWS growers were licensed to recruit their own labour
- The Pilot is a small scheme designed to trial a new system for managing migrant seasonal workers, therefore having a limited number of places
- Pilot Operators will have some additional obligations and duties under the Pilot. The full list of obligations for the Pilot are set out in Annex A
The purpose of the Pilot is to:
- pilot a new immigration subcategory for seasonal workers in the horticulture sector
- test the Pilot’s ability to alleviate some of the shortages of seasonal workers in the horticulture sector by allowing two Pilot Operators to sponsor the entry into the UK of migrant seasonal workers for up to 6 months, in 2019 and 2020
The objectives of the Pilot are to:
- test the Pilot’s ability to mitigate seasonal labour shortages in UK horticulture
- provide seasonal labour across the UK, so that all parts of the UK benefit from the Pilot
- determine if the Pilot might provide a longer term model for responding to seasonal labour shortages in this sector
- assess the capability of the industry to manage the Pilot effectively
- assess the impact of the Pilot on local communities
- ensure that the Pilot provides for robust immigration control
- ensure that the Pilot adequately protects migrant workers from modern slavery and other labour abuses
- ensure that the monitoring and reporting regime adequately informs the Home Office and Defra of the operation of the Pilot
- assess the financial impact of the pilot
The benefits of the Pilot will be to:
- mitigate seasonal labour shortages in the horticulture sector across the UK. As with the pre-2013 SAWS, the Pilot aims to alleviate shortages, but not supply all necessary labour
- gather information to inform a possible approach for seasonal labour beyond the Pilot
For the purposes of the pilot, workers may be sourced for employment that meets the following three criteria, which are outlined in detail below:
- sector (edible Horticulture)
- seasonal work
- listed activities
Defra has decided the Seasonal Workers Pilot will only cover part of agriculture – horticulture, and in particular edible horticulture - as this is where significant seasonal labour shortages are being reported.
For the purposes of this time limited Pilot, based on consultation with policy experts and industry representatives, Defra proposes the following sector definition:
The Pilot will allow the recruitment of seasonal labour for work solely within the edible horticulture sector. Defra defines the edible horticulture sector to include the following:
- protected vegetables – those grown in glasshouse systems
- field vegetables – those grown outdoors, including vegetables, herbs, leafy salads and potatoes
- soft fruit – those grown outdoors or under cover e.g. in glasshouses or polytunnel. Includes strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and all ribes and rubus species
- top fruit (orchard fruit) - trees that bear fruit e.g. apples, plums, cherries, apricots
- vine and bines – both twining or climbing flexible stems of certain plants, e.g. hops is a bine, and grapes is a vine
- mushrooms – typically covers Agaricus bisporus species but can also include more exotic species. Typically grown indoors
Please also note, the scope of the sector may be revised in the future.
7.2 Seasonal work
Seasonal workers may only be used for seasonal roles. For this pilot, Seasonal work is defined as;
Employment which fluctuates or is restricted according to the season or time of the year.
Defra proposes the following activities be included within scope of the Pilot, and therefore possible to recruit seasonal workers for, within the above edible horticulture sector.
- crop maintenance
- crop harvesting
- tunnel construction and dismantling
- irrigation installation and maintaining
- crop husbandry
- packing and processing of crops on employers premises
- preparing and dismantling growing areas and media
- general primary production work in edible horticulture
- activities relating to supervising teams of horticultural workers
Activities not deemed appropriate are those:
- that require labour all year round, and are therefore not seasonal
- work predominantly in offices or other administrative spaces
8. Allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship
The two Pilot operators will receive licenses allowing them to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to Pilot workers, allowing them to apply for visas under the new Tier 5 Pilot.
The allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) between the two pilot operators will be determined at the point of allocation.
The quota of visas is likely to be divided evenly between the two Pilot Operators, but the number of CoS will depend on the rate of visa approvals for recruited workers. Further CoS will be issued to replace those sponsored workers who did not have their visa applications approved, until that operator reaches their total agreed quota.
9. Defra’s selection of Pilot Operators
Responses to the RFI will be scored by a panel of Defra officials. Defra will endorse the two Potential Pilot Operators whose RFI responses score the highest using the scoring outlined at Annex A.
The scores for the Questions will then be multiplied by the weighting to give a weighted score for each question.
Consistency of pilot proposal with RFI responses
Potential Pilot Operators should take care to ensure that they can implement the terms of their RFI responses in practice. If a Potential Pilot Operator is selected to provide the Home Office with an FSP, they must ensure the FSP is consistent with their responses to the RFI.
Defra will not provide a letter of endorsement for a Pilot Operator whose FSP is inconsistent with its RFI responses, unless those inconsistencies have been agreed with Defra in writing.
Confirmation of outcome
Defra will write to Potential Pilot Operators indicating whether or not they were successful in obtaining endorsement from Defra. Defra will invite the two successful Pilot Operators to prepare an FSP for submission to the Home Office.
10. Defra monitoring and reporting
Listed below is the information that the Pilot Operators will be required to provide to Defra and the Home Office, to allow the effective monitoring and evaluation of the pilot:
- GLAA licencing details
- number of applicants
- number of workers recruited
- length of stay of workers
- number of early leavers
- hours of work done by migrants
- what they were paid
- total tax and NI paid
- number of GP and hospital visits
- a summary of sick days taken
aggregated demographic data on workers
- the farms with which migrants have been placed (their name, location and contact details)
- a breakdown of how many migrants were provided to each UK region 2
- type and location of accommodation used to house workers for the duration of the pilot
- type of transport options used by workers to get to work, if applicable
- evidence migrant worker has returned to source country before expiry of visa
a breakdown of the operator’s financial outcomes from the Pilot including:
- revenue from placing Pilot workers
- costs of recruiting and managing Pilot workers
- any other costs related to operating the Pilot
- the profit and loss associated with operating the Pilot
- Any other relevant information that the government deems necessary to successfully assess the pilot
Defra expects the Pilot Operators to work cooperatively with the Home Office and Defra under appropriate governance arrangements.
11. Instruction for completion of the RFI
You should check the clarification questions and answers document before completing the RFI
Potential Pilot Operators were invited to submit responses to the attached RFI at Annex A, together with any requested supporting information, to Defra by 17 October 2018 for return in accordance with the procedures set out in the section below entitled “Submission of Completed Requests for Information”.
Electronic responses should clearly indicate which section and specific questions is being answered. Please ensure that all questions are fully completed in English
Any submissions without a complete set of responses may be deemed non-compliant and therefore be excluded from further consideration. Potential Pilot Operators should answer all questions as accurately and concisely as possible in the same order as the questions are presented without any changes to the wording of the question.
Where a question in Section A or B is not relevant to the Potential Pilot Operator’s organisation, this should be indicated by confirming N/A (not applicable) with an explanation as to why this is.
Potential Pilot Operators must be explicit and comprehensive in their responses to this RFI as this will be the single source of information on which responses will be scored and ranked. Potential Pilot Operators are advised neither to make any assumptions about their past or current supplier relationships with Defra or the Home Office, nor to assume that such prior relationships will be taken into account in the evaluation procedure.
Please aim to keep your responses to sections C-E below 5000 words total as far as possible.
The information supplied will be checked for completeness and compliance with the instructions before responses are evaluated. Failure to provide the required information, make a satisfactory response to any question, or supply documentation referred to in responses, within the specified timescale, may mean that a Potential Pilot Operator is not invited to participate further. In the event that none of the responses are deemed satisfactory, Defra reserves the right to terminate the process and begin a new selection process.
Not all questions require supporting documents up front. However, Defra may ask to see these documents at a later stage, so it is advisable you ensure they can be made available upon request. You may also be asked to clarify your answers or provide more details about certain issues.
12. Submission of responses to the request for information
The closing date for submissions was 17 October 2018.
In your response to the RFI, please clearly indicate against your responses the relevant section and question number.
Defra does not accept responsibility for the premature opening or mishandling of envelopes that are not submitted in accordance with these instructions.
The Potential Pilot Operator shall ensure that the RFI response (both electronic and hard copies) are received by Defra no later than 16:00 on 17 October 2018.
Please note that RFI responses received after the closing date may be rejected.
13. Commercially sensitive information and Freedom of Information
In accordance with the obligations placed on public authorities by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), which provide a public right of access to information held by public bodies, Defra may disclose information submitted to Defra by Potential Pilot Operators.
If the Potential Pilot Operator considers any information which it supplies to be commercially sensitive or confidential it should complete the schedule of Commercially Sensitive Information set out in Annex B and:
- clearly identify such information as confidential or commercially sensitive
- explain the potential implications of disclosure of such information
- provide an estimate of the period of time during which the Potential Pilot Operator believes that such information will remain confidential or commercially sensitive
Where a Potential Pilot Operator identifies information as confidential and/or commercially sensitive, Defra will endeavour to maintain the confidentiality of that information, and will, where practicable, consult with the Potential Pilot Operator before information relating to that Potential Pilot Operator is disclosed pursuant to a request for information under FOIA and/or EIR to establish whether an exemption from disclosure may apply.
However, even where information is identified as being confidential or commercially sensitive, there may be circumstances in which Defra may be required to disclose such information in accordance with the FOIA or the EIR. In particular, Defra is required to form an independent judgment concerning whether the information is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA or the EIR and whether the public interest favours disclosure or not. Accordingly, Defra cannot guarantee that any information marked “confidential” or “commercially sensitive” will not be disclosed and accepts no liability for any loss or prejudice caused by the disclosure of information.
If a Potential Pilot Operator receives a request for information relating to this selection under the FOIA or the EIR during the selection process, this should be immediately passed on to Defra and the Potential Pilot Operator should not respond to the request without first consulting Defra.
14. Notification of outcome
Defra will write to all parties that provided RFI responses notifying them of the outcome of their response.
A good introduction to the Uk’s immigration system is set out in the briefing paper at http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7662/CBP-7662.pdf ↩
For these purposes, the UK regions are: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. ↩