Written evidence submitted by the British Retail Consortium (LS0068)
I was able to speak to some of our members, not all, but believe it is representative of the retail sector.
None of the retailers I have spoken to have directly taken up the offer of visas; one retailer said a 3rd party logistics provider who worked with them had been able to secure a very small number of visas.
There were several reasons for the lack of uptake. Firstly some decided not to pursue it at all as the visa period was too short to make a difference to their business and they felt it would be unattractive in trying to tempt new drivers. Of those who did try they have faced major problems. Firstly, the 4 providers of visas are not used to recruiting drivers and as the retailers didn’t have a ready made pool of available drivers either it made finding prospective candidates very difficult. Secondly, where they were found the sifting process wasn’t perfect and drivers who looked eligible and qualified weren’t when further inspections of licences were made costing time and money. Finally, it took so long to find eligible drivers it wouldn’t have made a difference to the busy Christmas build up period.
So in summary the scheme was agreed too late in the year, the visas were too short to be attractive and neither the providers or the retailers had sufficient contacts in prospective countries to identify suitable drivers.
Our members had less feedback on the schemes for meat processing workers or the SAWS scheme but those that did said it worked better. The providers are more used to dealing with the scheme and identifying workers, the time from search to entry into the workforce wasn’t too bad (4-6 weeks) and their suppliers have found workers.