The Farm Work Welfare App is an easy to use app, designed to support both farmers and pickers as well as tackle labour abuse and modern slavery in the farming, horticulture and food production sector.
A new app to tackle modern slavery
We’re particularly excited that the Farm Work Welfare App (FWWA) is ready in time for the summer as these next few months are critical in terms of the recruitment of seasonal workers. What’s more, when demand for workers outweighs supply, criminal labour exploitation often flourishes.
Summer 2020 has seen the usual supply of workers significantly hampered by restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus pandemic and also because of the impending impact of Brexit. To add fuel to the fire, industry shut-downs which have come into effect to help fight COVID-19 have led to a surge in the number of vulnerable people looking for work in rural areas and has pushed exploiters to move away from some of the industries they usually operate in. Combine these factors and it’s easy to see why criminal gangs are becoming increasingly active within the agricultural sector.
You may be wondering – how can a farmer or grower employ modern day slaves without realising it? The reality is that many farmers rely on third party recruitment agencies, or labour providers, to find seasonal workers and not all these third parties are legitimate and fair businesses. Across the UK, exploiters pose as legal labour providers, offering employers and farmers a ready supply of labour, while in fact they are forcing workers into jobs for little or no money. These highly organised, ruthless criminal gangs exploit the high demand for short term labour, often targeting migrant workers who may not be fluent in English or familiar with UK workers’ rights, making them more vulnerable to being coerced and controlled.
It is for this reason that we have developed the FWWA app. It is quite similar to our Safe Car Wash app but instead of focusing on the car wash industry, it provides farmers and pickers with the information they need to avoid criminal organisations and navigate the challenges of seasonal employment. It contains lots of practical information and signposting on existing protections such as the GLAA Licensing Scheme, document verification and the rights of workers such as freedom of movement and right to work.
For pickers, it aims to help them understand their rights and what to do if they are being exploited. It also has a report function to encourage members of the public who live or work in rural areas to be alert to the signs of exploitation that may be in plain sight. Any information gathered will be processed by the Modern Slavery Helpline and help identify hot spots, enable criminal investigations and most importantly, victim support.
Bishop Alastair Redfern, former Bishop of Derby and Chairman of The Clewer Initiative, explains: “Unfortunately, the normal pressures faced by the farming, horticulture and food production industries have been exacerbated by restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit. It’s a perfect storm and that’s why we are so keen to raise awareness of this innovative new app.”
The app can be downloaded from Apple and Android app stores and is available in Albanian, Bulgarian, English, Lithuanian, Romanian, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin) and Vietnamese.
Our ambition is that it will help everyone in the sector know what ‘good’ looks like and will become a key source of information on the recruitment of seasonal workers, particularly post-Brexit.
 The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority Licensing scheme regulates businesses who provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain. The scheme ensures that businesses who supply workers (labour providers, gangmasters or agencies) and businesses who need workers (labour users, farmers, packhouses, factories) meet the employment standards that are required by law. See Notes to Editors