Profile of seasonal migrant workers
Demographic profile of seasonal migrant workers
The survey results show that there were slightly more men than women employed in seasonal work (54% compared with 43%), however there were no significant differences by sector/type of work in terms of the gender profile of the worker.
The nationality of workers was also covered in the survey questionnaire, with almost two-fifths (42%) of workers originating from Poland and almost a third (31%) from Romania. There were relatively low proportions of workers originating from the countries targeted by the UK Government's seasonal workers' pilot study (3% from Ukraine and none from Moldova).
Patterns of employment
Specifically looking at patterns of employment there are important findings in terms of the months in which seasonal workers are employed, the vast majority are employed in the summer months from May through to September which is closely related to patterns observed within the agricultural sector. A small number of firms, however, reported that they have a flow of seasonal workers throughout the year.
Corresponding with the months of the year in which seasonal employment is concentrated, around a third of firms employed seasonal workers for short term periods: 30% of firms employ seasonal workers for 1-2 months and 31% employ seasonal workers for 3-5 months.
As discussed in the literature review there is a process of circular employment related to seasonal migrant labour, the survey data corresponds with this and finds that 36% of seasonal workers are employed as returners from previous years. An equal proportion are employed through recruitment agencies – which is reinforcded through our qualitative research discussed in the following chapter.
Other methods cited by employers included seasonal migrant workers dropping-in to the branch in search for employment, recruitment fairs and applying online through the company website or social media.
As part of the recruitment of seasonal migrant workers, just over two-fifths (44%) of firms provided accommodation to their staff recruited on a seasonal basis.
In terms of the type of work performed by seasonal workers employed in non-agricultural sectors, the survey results are consistent with evidence related to the employment of seasonal and EEA employment in "low skilled" occupations – which is distinct from the skills or education level of the worker. As is shown in the figure below, almost seven in ten seasonal migrant workers (68%) are working in elementary occupations.
On average, seasonal migrant workers work for 8 hours per day, 5 days a week which equates to 40 hours of employment per week. When looking at the numbers in finer detail, there is much more variance in terms of the hours worked per week, with a slightly higher proportion working more than 40 hours a week.
Impact of Brexit on businesses that employ seasonal migrant workers
Among those businesses that employ seasonal migrant workers, there were a small number of attitudinal questions to assess the impact of Brexit on the seasonal dimension of employment patterns within the business.
For all of the elements, from businesses' ability to recruit and retain staff through to the delivery of core operations during seasonal periods – the vast proportion cited that Brexit would negatively impact the business.
In a similar thread, over the last three years, since the June 2016 referendum, businesses cited that they had experienced a range of positive and negative effects – almost a third (31%), however, noted that they had not been impacted which is in part related to the uncertainty concerning Brexit as well as limited material change felt by some businesses over the past three years.
Other impacts cited by businesses included a focus on making plans for Brexit, particularly in the event of a no-deal scenario, which was creating a diversion from core business functions. One business noted that "it takes far too much management bandwith to keep repeatedly scenario planning as things blunder along".
Another commonly described impact was a loss in sales as a results of decreased consumer confidence, there was a view that uncertainty had led to consumers spending less money.
For those who relied on European produce in their supply chain, there was discussion of "stocking up" on products to avoid later difficulties when tarrifs or other barriers to trade are introduced.
Furthermore, and distinct from the difficulty recruiting staff there was mention of an "anxiety" felt among non-UK EU staff within the business concerning the implications of Brexit, and some businesses reported that they were less likely to employ staff because of the uncertainty over the business pipeline.