Agriculture is an important part of the Jersey economy and plays a crucial role in maintaining and protecting our natural environment and Island life. It’s also labour intensive, which means a significant requirement for staff, both generally and on a seasonal basis. Like all industries, the agricultural sector has faced increasing challenges in recruitment. The Government has sought to address these challenges, in part, by the temporary work permit system.
Why is there a staffing shortage?
There are a number of reasons. In part, it’s a consequence of COVID. The reality is that the demand for labour as economies open up after the lockdown has risen much more rapidly than the supply of labour. Part of the problem with labour supply is that more people are now economically inactive – meaning they are not in work and are not looking for work.
Another factor is the impact of Brexit. Under the new rules, anyone wishing to work in Jersey must hold a work permit unless they are a British or Irish citizen. This has seen a noticeable decline in the number of people from EU countries coming to Jersey to work.
A final element playing into this shortage of labour is the impact of the cost of living and the ever-increasing cost of housing, which makes Jersey a less attractive prospect to those on lower incomes.
What do employers need to be aware of?
When looking to employ someone it’s important to identify if the potential employee needs a work permit. If so, the employer needs to be sure that they have the necessary permissions from the Population Office. There could be restrictions imposed by the employer’s business licence as to how many ‘licensed’ or ‘registered’ individuals they can employ – this can sometimes be zero.
What is a Temporary Work Permit?
Employers within Agriculture are entitled to apply for a 9 month temporary work permit for their workers. This permit is available to those employed in agricultural roles on working farms. Where certain criteria are met, this is also extended to tree surgeons and landscape gardeners.
Under this permit the employee:
Can only carry out duties that the permit was acquired for
Can take on additional work within the agricultural sector with their employer’s consent
Cannot extend the permit beyond the set 9 months
Cannot switch employment within the first continuous 12 months
Must leave the Common Travel Area for a minimum of 3 months before re-applying for a permit
Cannot bring any dependants to join them in Jersey
The employer of an employee on a temporary work permit must:
Apply for the permit before the employee arrives in Jersey
Pay no less than the ‘going rate’ for a full-time role of 40 hours a week
Have a signed and valid employment contract which states the wage and hours
Ensure all employees are adequately housed
Not terminate employment before the end of the 9 month period
Make their employee aware that they are under no obligation to take on additional hours beyond what they are contracted
The process for applying for a permit and receiving it usually takes around 3 weeks and enough time should be left so that the employee also has time to apply for a visa prior to landing in Jersey.
Temporary Employment Contacts
As is required, all employers must hold signed employment contracts for all their seasonal workers. A temporary contract is an agreement to work for an employer for a specific, limited amount of time. Temporary contracts are similar to fixed-term contacts; they are there to enable the employment of personnel to meet a particular need or complete a particular project but without any intention that the role will be a permanent one. Temporary contracts should be properly drafted and should contain (among other things): the name of the employer and employee; job title; start date and end date; payment terms; statement of working hours; and any entitlement to holiday pay and benefits.