Employing migrant workers


Case Study: Wilkin & Sons Ltd Farms

Wilkin & Sons Ltd Farms - this will open in a new window

Wilkin & Sons Ltd Farms


Farming and food production

Company history and profile

The Wilkin family started farming in Tiptree, Essex in the early 1700's, with fruit added to the farming mix in 1860. Jam production began in 1885 with the company subsequently awarded the Royal Warrant for Jam production in 1911 by King George V, an honour it has held ever since.

Today the company has a turnover in excess of £12m per annum. The farms in total extend to c1000 acres, of which 200 acres are dedicated to intensive fruit production.

Values and Approach to employment policy

The company is committed to employment of local and UK staff where possible, but recognises the need for a supplementary workforce at harvest time. Having worked under the remit of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and its precursors for over 50 years, the company believes that the scheme offers participants (usually third level students) the best opportunity to travel to, and work legally under, a well structured and closely supervised seasonal work scheme.

Business reason for employing migrant workers

Up to 350 casual staff are employed on the company's farms at the height of each summer for harvesting the fruit crops. Casual staff are drawn from three sources - locally, retired British couples (who return year on year) and are accommodated for free on the farms' caravan site, and overseas students who make up about 40% of the total at the peak of the season.

The company has been associated with the employment of overseas labour since the late 1940s. It would be unable to sustain its current levels of fruit production without access to this source of casual staff and would need to resort to buying in fruit from outside to meet its processing requirements.

Models and Process

As an established SAWS operator, Wilkin & Sons Ltd are known and well regarded as employers of seasonal labour throughout Eastern Europe and further afield. In an effort to offer "best value" to participants, the company's policy is to deal direct with individuals and not via intermediaries. The company has an annual allocation of 150 work permits from the Home Office.

Wilkin & Sons Ltd receives in the region of 4,000 letters of interest each year. From these, information packs and application forms are sent to around 500 of the interested parties. From these 500 packs the company aims to recruit its quota of 150 SAWS students from a range of Eastern European and other countries based on Home Office Guidelines.


The SAWS scheme has been an outstanding success for the supply of seasonal staff to Wilkin & Sons Ltd and indeed farms all over the UK for the last 50+ years.

The calibre of candidates presented is generally excellent with intelligent, well-motivated participants offered the opportunity to work in the UK for up to a 6-month placement.

As the majority of the participants are already studying an agricultural discipline, the scheme offers them an opportunity to experience first hand Western European production techniques. This not only provides a valuable addition to their studies but also allows them the opportunity to improve their English, travel within the UK and to earn some excellent money besides.

Contact details

For further information visit the International Farm Camp web site at


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