Written evidence submitted by Wayland Farms Ltd (LS0007)
I am writing to you in the hope that you can support us by assisting in finding a solution to the extreme labour shortages that we are currently facing following our exit from the European Union and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a significant and critical issue that is already resulting in shortages across the food and drink supply chain and which is causing our business to have to rationalise product ranges and short our customers.
Cranswick was established in the Hull area approximately 50 years ago, and is now one of the city’s largest employers, supplying products into the UK’s retail and food service market, with a turnover of £1.9billion from sites across the UK. Cranswick employs circa 13,000 people, in both factory and farming operations - the majority of whom are on a permanent contract. Two thirds of the workforce are Eastern European. Most of the workforce live within 20km of their workplace. In the year to March 2021 Cranswick invested circa £72m across its asset base, with a further £100m earmarked for the current financial year, to secure the ongoing future success of the business and in doing so contributing to the local economy in terms of labour, materials, infrastructure and technological expertise.
We did not furlough any staff or make any redundancies during the pandemic. All staff maintained their full-time and permanent positions and the business continued to recruit staff during this time, including Graduates, and provided placement and alternative work experience opportunities remotely.
We have invested heavily in recruitment campaigns and employee engagement initiatives and have introduced a benefits platform that includes enhanced maternity and paternity pay, extra days holiday, cycle to work schemes, an electric car benefit scheme and money off vouchers for a range of retailers, restaurants. We have improved facilities and introduced staff shops, free products, free or subsidised meals and ‘refer a friend’ schemes with up to £300 per person referred.
We offer work experience to local schools, either virtually during the periods of lockdown or in person, we recruit up to 12 Graduates per year, and as many placement students. We employ 178 Apprentices in the business across a variety of roles and have actively engaged in Government initiatives including the Kickstart scheme to bring individuals into the business. These initiatives have not brought us new staff in sufficient numbers, with only 4 out of 40 people requested being secured at one site alone. We also offer a number of differing shift patterns dependent upon the circumstances of the employee i.e. a 9am – 3pm shift for working parents or a 10am – 2pm shift for Students over the summer holidays.
Whilst our aim is to recruit locally wherever possible, we are still heavily reliant on Agencies to fulfil our requirements with most of our workforce being originally sourced from Eastern Europe. Whilst many of our colleagues have worked with us for several years and have successfully claimed Settled Status, we continue to need to recruit to fulfil our customers’ needs. Despite using a range of recruitment methods, we are unable to attract or retain sufficient individuals from any of the local areas to our sites. This issue is being exacerbated by increasing competition from other industries which are also experiencing staff shortages and the effect of Brexit and the implementation of the EU Settlement Scheme regulations.
We are experiencing wage rate inflation in all areas of the country from both our competitors within the food industry, and in other sectors, as we all try to recruit from an ever-decreasing labour pool. Inflation has ranged recently from 10 to 20% across all job roles and, whilst we recognise the value of our employees and reward them accordingly, this cannot continue without the economic impact being passed on to our customers and ultimately the UK consumer in the form of higher food prices.
Daily Agency staff shortages can fluctuate between 200 and 500 people each week. Our Agency providers are unable to source the numbers of people necessary to meet our requirements and have openly admitted to this being the case, with some agency suppliers actively looking to cease total supply due to their inability to meet our needs even for small numbers of workers. This results in us being unable to fulfil our production requirements with the consequential impact on product availability for our customers and ultimately the UK consumer.
To highlight the challenges we currently face, the chart below shows the number of permanent staff vacancies that we have across our business with vacancies spread across a variety of roles and in significant numbers.
Number of Vacancies
New Product Development
Despite all the initiatives and incentives that I have referred to above, we are still unable to fulfil our staffing requirements either on a temporary or a permanent basis and this situation is rapidly deteriorating week by week. We are increasingly unable to meet our customers’ requirements due to the lack of staff and we can only see this situation intensifying if nothing is done to address the root cause.
I would ask you therefore to engage with Government and encourage it to extend the Shortage Occupation List to include Factory Operatives and Skilled Workers working within the Food Industry and to ensure consideration is given to reviewing the EU Settlement Scheme to allow access to the same labour pool as was available prior to Brexit. If these issues are not addressed immediately we, and other UK food producers may not be able to continue to supply sufficient food to satisfy the UK consumer’s needs.