Stuff The Rules! Poultry Workers Get Quarantine Exception To Avoid Christmas Turkey Shortage

Overseas staff who pluck for Britain will be able to work during quarantine – but must stay abreast of other requirements.
Bronze free-range turkeys
Bronze free-range turkeys
Nick David via Getty Images

Quarantine rules have been relaxed for overseas poultry workers in England as producers race against the cluck to make sure there are enough turkeys for Christmas amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government announced on Monday night that seasonal workers arriving in England who would usually have to quarantine for two weeks would be able to start work straight away.

But these workers won’t be able to stuff the rules completely.

They will have to live on the poultry farm or processing plant where they are working, and will only be allowed to leave in exceptional circumstances.

They will also have to stay within a select group of staff and will not be able to mix with other employees.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the move would allow producers “to keep up with the Christmas demand over the festive period”.

The change, which came into force almost immediately at 4am on Tuesday, followed warnings from the industry that the UK could be left with a shortage of the festive birds.

The British Poultry Council (BCP), who campaigned for the change in travel rules, said turkey could be missing from some Brits’ Christmas tables if UK producers were unable to bring in staff from overseas.

It had argued that there was a shortage of UK workers able to slaughter and process Christmas turkeys – and that there wasn’t enough time to train up new recruits.

According to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, around 5,500 seasonal workers usually arrive on English farms each year in the run up to December 25.

BCP chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “The seasonal turkey industry looks to bring in around 1,000 workers and we are hopeful that this exemption will be helpful.”

Industry is determined to “deliver the Great British Christmas” to families across the nation, he added.

Environment secretary George Eustice said it was “essential” that farmers and food producers get the support they need ahead of Christmas, “so it is good news that seasonal workers will be able to get straight to work once they arrive in the country”.

“The run-up to Christmas is particularly important for farmers and food producers who need more workers on their farms to meet the festive demand,” he said.

All seasonal workers must leave England by December 31, the government said, by which time the exemption will have lapsed.


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