Quarantine relaxed for turkey farm workers

Photo: Richard Wozniak / Shutterstock

Turkey farm workers from outside the UK will not have to fully adhere to 14 days’ quarantine, after farming groups successfully sought an exemption from the government.

Temporary measures published today mean seasonal poultry workers arriving from abroad will be able to work during their two-week quarantine period, although they will still have to self-isolate from the general public.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said workers will have to form cohorts, where they only live and work with a select group of the same workers during their stay and they do not mix with other employees.

Each year thousands of workers arrive on English farms to help during the busy festive period. This includes slaughtering turkeys, a job that demands high-skilled professional labour to ensure our animal welfare standards are maintained.

The decision – agreed by the Department for Transport, the Department for Health and Social Care and Public Health England (PHE) – will help poultry farmers and food producers access the necessary workforce in the run-up to Christmas.

Last month, the British Poultry Council sought an urgent exemption from quarantine restrictions for seasonal workers coming from predominantly eastern Europe.

The UK has a shortage of workers with the necessary training and qualifications to slaughter and process turkeys. Producers are heavily reliant on licensed EU workers with specific farming, processing and butchery skills. The BPC has said these skills cannot be replaced without a lengthy training and recruitment period.

British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “The seasonal turkey industry looks to bring in around a thousand workers and we are hopeful that this exemption will be helpful. Industry is determined to deliver the Great British Christmas to households across the nation. If the exemption helps us deliver a fantastic Christmas and helps our smaller seasonal producers out, then it can only be a good thing.”

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “It’s essential that farmers and food producers get the support that they need at this busy time of year, so it is good news that seasonal workers will be able to get straight to work once they arrive in the country. The run-up to Christmas is particularly important for farmers and food producers who need more workers on their farms to meet the festive demand.

Seasonal workers and employers will have to comply with measures including:

  • Self-isolating away from the general public for 14 days – workers will stay in work/accommodation bubbles with essentials delivered to them by their employer
  • Cohorting – workers will be placed in groups with whom they will live and work, without mixing with other workers, throughout their stay
  • Workers and employers will be provided with clear, translated guidance developed by Defra and PHE
  • Poultry workers are required to leave England by the end of the exemption period on 31 December 2020.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “Christmas dinner is the highlight of the year for many families and this year it will be particularly significant. Businesses up and down the country have faced unprecedented challenges from coronavirus and these measures will ensure UK farmers and food producers are supported and able to keep up with the Christmas demand over the festive period.”

National restrictions in England introduced on 5 November mean people must stay at home unless travelling for work or education. This means they can no longer travel abroad unless for work or other legally permitted reasons.

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