Covid-19: Seasonal and harvest labour considerations

Many of us are turning our attention to the early planning for harvest resourcing. 

Having maintained a careful and cautious approach to managing your core team and working hard to minimise or reduce the potential for Covid-19 to reach you, your team and their immediate family, the prospect of casual or temporary staff bringing it in is a concern to many. 

Harvest is perhaps three months away and the situation around isolation and lockdown may change dramatically between now and then. Given that and the rapidly evolving guidance it would not be sensible to be trying, at this stage, to put the detail of bespoke risk management in place at this time. The time for that is possibly in early June when we know more about the disease itself, it’s transmission and the scale of any consequent government restrictions on the movement of people or goods. 

In the meantime I would suggest considering whether you need to make any preparations ahead of any recruitment work that you may be planning. It will be important to make any particular or special expectations clear to candidates at the start of the hiring process. 

Will you for example want to test candidates once you’ve identified the ones you want to employ? 

Will you want to try to maintain the ‘ring fenced’ environment that you’ve created by, for example, restricting their living arrangements and housing them on farm?

Or be asking them to observe special social distancing arrangements for their non work hours during any period of employment with you?

Each of these – along with a number of other substantial control measures that may become appropriate  – will require very detailed and careful assessment and are likely to require specialist advice including advice around what you can and can’t do legally.

  • It’s likely that you’ll need to consider both the health and safety and the HR consequences of any decisions that you do make. It’s worth remembering that Covid-19 is, within a Work context – a health and safety issue and falls under your general duty of care as an employer to provide a safe working environment.
  • Whilst it’s important to have regard for HR and ensure that you are operating within the bounds of that legislation, your primary driver should be adherence to safety law and to the basic principle of protecting your team and indirectly their loved ones – some of whom may well be classified as vulnerable.

We expect to be working closely with clients over the next few weeks to develop the thinking around this and to provide very detailed and site specific guidance as and when we know more about the environment as it will be when you enter the critical harvest period.

Oliver Dale April 2020 Safety Revolution Ltd ©

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