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How dairy farmers can address sector’s labour crisis

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Debbie James from Farmers Weekly writes:

Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic are the principal reasons for the 500,000 shortfall in the UK’s farming workforce, according to a recent report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee.

The government has acknowledged this labour challenge and put forward solutions which include tweaking policies relating to recruiting from overseas to fill the 12.2% vacancy rate.

In contrast, Paul Harris, a consultant with expertise in staff recruitment and retention on UK farms, reckons it is up to dairy farmers to take more ownership of the issues that are putting people off from working on their farms.

“The government report into the labour shortage focuses on resolving the access to overseas workers,” says Mr Harris, of Real Success.

“While the macro issues still need to be addressed, they alone won’t resolve the systemic issues we have, in that UK staff simply don’t want to work in our sector and staff turnover is far too high.”

Farmers are the key to changing perceptions of the industry, he believes, and he has produced a comprehensive strategy to facilitate that.

The document addresses issues ranging from better communication and safer working practices to training and improving working conditions.

Mr Harris also wants action at an industry-wide level.

“There is a clear need for a farming-specific accreditation that recognises the efforts made by a farming business to support, develop and value their staff,” he says.

Solutions for staff recruitment and retention advocated in Mr Harris’ report are largely based on a shift in mindset by farmers on a range of key issues.

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REAL Success | People Management Solutions | Farmers Weekly Story