The UK Government has officially confirmed a temporary visa scheme under which 5,000 foreign HGV drivers would qualify for temporary visas until December 24 to help the fuel and food industries during the current “exceptional circumstances”. A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available to avoid any further potential pressures on the food industry. This temporary visa scheme aims to avoid an escalation of the country’s supply chain crisis before Christmas.
Eligibility for the visa scheme will not be limited to certain nationalities, although it is expected that the majority of applications will be made by European’s nationals. The additional visas are expected to form part of the TG Seasonal Worker Scheme.
Without the new emergency visa scheme, UK companies are not able to access migrant workers such as HGV drivers and factory workers under the current immigration rules. Following the end of EU free movement at the start of 2021, all non-UK residents must now apply for a visa to work in the UK.
Loss of workers in the UK attributable to Brexit has been increased by other factors such as low wages, poor working conditions and the pandemic. The haulage industry has also cited an ageing workforce and the current state of training and testing of new HGV drivers as contributing to the labour crisis.
Besides launching the aforementioned visa scheme, the government will also provide funding for both medical and HGV licences to any adult who completes an HGV driving qualification accessed via the Adult Education Budget in the 2021/22 academic year. In addition to this, the Department for Education has further announced 10 million new skills bootcamps scheme to train 3,000 people to become HGV Drivers. The UK government Department for Education is investing in new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
It is hoped that the visa scheme will provide a short, sharp increase to the HGV driver workforce that can help to relieve the pre-Christmas peak on British supply chains.
Nevertheless, there are some doubts as to whether European truckers will be attracted by the opportunity of 2-3 months of temporary work in the UK.