19 December 2022
CCLA, a pioneer in responsible investing and the UK’s largest charity investment manager (Charity Finance Survey 2022), today announces it has spearheaded a call by investors to help protect migrant seasonal workers in the UK.
Brexit and the war in Ukraine have resulted in a shortage of migrant workers for the UK agricultural sector. The investor group is concerned that migrant workers in the UK, recruited and employed through the government’s Seasonal Worker Scheme, are being obliged to pay excessive fees to agents and middlemen in addition to other fees, travel and visa costs for crucial, but temporary roles, supporting the UK’s food sector.
Conservative estimates by Impactt, a consulting group specialising in ethical trade and human rights, has estimated the fees paid by migrant seasonal workers in the UK to be £35 million in 2022 alone.
Despite the UK government’s commitments to tackling modern slavery and the International Labour Organization stating that no recruitment fees or related costs should be charged to, or otherwise borne by, workers or jobseekers, workers often have to take out loans at high interest rates or sign over assets and property to pay these fees and costs. This leaves the workers open to a high risk of debt bondage, one of the key indicators of forced labour.
In addition, some migrant workers in the UK have been deceived by promises of multi-year contracts, but due to the late release of 8,000 visas, find themselves with only weeks of work and in substantial debt.
CCLA has convened 10 investors with over £800 billion in assets under management to sign a statement calling on retailers and firms in, and directly sourcing from, the UK agricultural supply chain to:
- implement the Employer Pays Principle which means that no worker should pay for a job and that the employer should bear all recruitment costs (recruitment fees and associated expenses such as travel etc.)
- undertake investigation of existing workers and ensure a fair process to repay recruitment-related costs that may have been borne by the workers
- encourage the government to bring the UK’s Seasonal Worker Scheme into line with international commitments
Dame Sara Thornton, Consultant – Modern Slavery for CCLA said:
Labour shortages continue to affect the agricultural sector and the seasonal workers visas are designed to address these pressures. But there still is insufficient focus on protecting vulnerable workers, who travel to the UK from over 50 countries, from harm. Experts who have interviewed seasonal workers have identified many indicators of forced labour. This is happening today in the UK. Both government and business can and should do more.
Mr Peter Hugh Smith, CCLA Chief Executive said:
It is important that as investors and effectively as owners of companies, that we come together to help address the issue of modern slavery. It is so pervasive, likely in every supply chain and as we see with this latest example, exists on our own soil. The City must step up and take action to ensure that people are protected and that we are not profiting from hardship and misery.
Miranda Barham: email@example.com or +44 (0)7899 030304