The Government has confirmed furloughed workers will be able to take on additional work during the coronavirus pandemic, in a bid to address the farming sector’s labour shortages.
It comes after a nationwide recruitment campaign was launched to encourage British people to help produce, manufacture and deliver food to meet increasing consumer demand during the crisis.
Anticipating a shortfall of about 80 per cent of the workforce, CLA president Mark Bridgeman said the Government had taken heed of ‘industry warnings’.
He said: “The Government has listened and has now made it clear that if you are furloughed, you should be able to undertake seasonal paid employment to supplement your income.”
The move followed calls from farm organisations to introduce a flexible furlough scheme to offset Covid-19 shortfalls in labour across the industry.
NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw highlighted the move was ‘positive’ and would help to widen the recruitment pool, especially for growers who had relied on migrant workers to pick and pack fresh fruit and vegetables.
With furloughed workers now able to collect wages through the introduction of a temporary licensing scheme, Mr Bradshaw said the NFU would be working with Defra Secretary George Eustice to find ‘innovative’ solutions to mobilise the workforce in the coming months.
Mr Bridgeman added it was now ‘vital’ employers allowed their furloughed staff to be released from any contractual obligations that limited their ability to seek alternative work.