In its response to John Shropshire's Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, the government have announced their commitment to series of new measures to support the industry. These include:

  • extending the seasonal worker visa route for five years until 2029 to give businesses time to plan effectively;
  • up to £50 million of further funding for new technology to support fully automated packhouses and more support to follow to bring robotic crop pickers on a par with human pickers in three to five years;
  • creating a comprehensive strategy to enhance skills provision and attract domestic workers.

They have also announced that 43,000 visas will be available to the horticulture sector in 2025, with another 2,000 visas for poultry (as opposed to the 45,000 and 2,000 visas respectively for 2023 and 2024). Further detail of the number of visas available for 2026 to 2029 will be set out later this year.

In regards to worker welfare, the government have outlined their commitment to:

  • Investigating the use of the Employer Pays Principle for the Seasonal Worker visa route, through the funding of the Seasonal Worker Scheme Employer Pays Principle Feasibility Study in partnership with the Seasonal Worker Scheme Taskforce.
  • Working with sponsors and growers to improve worker accommodation and explore a more effective routing of complaints, so that poor treatment, pay issues or working conditions can be reported and dealt with more effectively.
  • Focusing on ensuring sponsors are abiding by workers’ rights, by improving training and processes for compliance inspectors and creating clear policies and guidance for robust action for scheme sponsors where workers are at risk of exploitation via a new team within the Home Office compliance network.
  • Continuing support for the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)'s approach to memorandum of understanding agreements with key source countries, which commits to joint activities to reduce risk of exploitation of migrant workers. This may be extended to other countries where there is significant recruitment by sponsors.

Read government's response in full here

In response, the BRC issued the following statement:

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the BRC, said:

"We welcome the Government's response to the Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, which has given much needed certainty over the longevity of the scheme and the provision of visas for 2025. We look forward to working with government on how the scheme could be improved, such as the length of the visa and number of recruitment countries.

"Retailers are proud to be working with Defra on the jointly funded Employer Pays Principle (EPP) feasibility study, as part of the Taskforce, which will investigate the use of the EPP for the Seasonal Worker visa route. This will be a vital step to improving our understanding of how EPP could be applied in practice to the Scheme, including how various actors in the supply chain can improve protections of workers.”


  • Since 2022, retailers have been working with the rest of the industry and government to improve the seasonal worker experience, from recruitment to working in the UK, through their participation in and as majority funders of the Seasonal Worker Scheme Taskforce. This includes exploring how the Employer Pays Principle could apply to the Seasonal Workers Scheme and have been championing the Seasonal Worker Employer Pays Principal feasibility study.
  • The Seasonal Worker Scheme (SWS) Taskforce for UK agricultural workers was founded to enable collective action on the safeguarding and accessibility to workers’ rights in the UK SWS and wider UK horticulture.