As we begin to take the first tentative steps out of the pandemic people’s thoughts are beginning to turn to the ideas of their first foreign getaway in over a year. After such a long and difficult winter, it is no surprise that holiday bookings have seen a 600% surge. However, when guests return to their favourite destinations, they may find their trips feel very different to how they did two years ago.
The smiling British seasonal workers who would be there to welcome their guests whether they are reps, instructors, musicians or nannies may no longer be there when they arrive. British Seasonal workers may no longer be a prominent part of holidays for Brits in the future as their opportunities for employment have drastically diminished and in some cases disappeared entirely.
“a seasonal worker is an employee hired into a position for a short-defined period. An example of a seasonal worker is someone employed in a summer or ski resort for the duration of a holiday season”.
The reason for this is that the 25,000 British seasonal workers who work in Europe every year are finding out that they are having to go through time consuming and often complex process to apply for work visas. Their biggest challenge however will be finding employers. Faced with a bureaucratic nightmare of permits and licenses British and European companies are facing long waiting times if they want to recruit British workers, forcing them to look elsewhere to fulfil their recruitment requirements.
For British seasonal workers who do not have residency or dual nationality with a European Nation their prospects for working seasons in the future are looking bleak and if you are a new or returning seasonal worker you may find that there are very few if any opportunities on offer.
26 year old Georgia has been working summer and winter seasons for the last 3 years and can't imagine life without working in Europe. She started working seasons in winter in the French alps before working as a manager in a kitesurfing school in Greece where she met her boyfriend. Planning to continue working winter seasons in the alps and summer seasons in her partner's native Greece she assumed post pandemic she could get back out on the water doing the sport she loves.
“I’ve been offered a job at a kitesurfing school in Greece for the upcoming summer but I cannot get a visa, as they do not have a national type D seasonal visa or any visa for that matter. This means I not only won’t be able to carry on my career in this industry, I’m going to be separated from my boyfriend for I don’t know how long.”
Georgia is not the only person unsure about what the future holds and worries she will no longer be able to pursue her passion with the person she loves.
Ellen and her partner spend their summers in Italy employed by a Dutch holiday company where 50% of their staff are British. They had hoped to return to Italy following the end of the pandemic however they quickly found out that this might not be as easy as they thought.
“Not long ago we had a phone call from them, saying that Brits can no longer work for them. We were scheduled to go to our usual campsite in Italy (Covid permitting) but my partner would only be able to work there for a maximum of 90 days”.
Ellen’s season would normally go on for much longer than 90 days the current working visas would allow and as a result she said with much regret “Friends of ours who work for a British company have been told that the company will try to find EU nationals who can do their jobs first, and only if this were not possible, they might get a job."
Ellen who was born in the Netherlands is not exempt from these challenges, as although an EU national she is encountering problems as she does not have an address in the Netherlands. “When I contacted the Dutch Embassy about this, they said that I would have to contact the Italian authorities myself, to ask for permission to work there despite in theory, me having the right to work where I want in the EU.”
Sophie spent 2 winters working as a chalet manager in the French alps and fell in love with life in the mountains, so much so that Sophie and her partner wanted to make the Alps their permanent home. “I've always felt so much more immediately at home in the French mountains than I ever have in the UK and planned to spend a few more years working summers and winters, before setting up my own business out in France. Unfortunately, that all came crashing down.”
Following a family member's health emergency Sophie had to return home before the end of the transition period, meaning she then missed out on the opportunity for residency in France. However a year down the line Sophie is not letting the challenges get in the way. After being offered a job in a luxury retreat in Spain she quickly appreciated the hurdles she faced. She had to innovate, establishing her own company becoming freelance and invoicing the Spanish
company. “[This has left me with] an enormous visa application (11 documents in total), needing to produce a business plan, all of which needs to be translated and must be physically applied for at the Spanish consulate in Edinburgh.”
Sophie realised achieving her dream might not be as easy as she thought; “This all costs a fortune at my own expense and with a month's processing time and no guarantee of a visa at the end. If I do not get it, the cost will have been far greater than everything I've earned throughout the pandemic.”
“ If an employer wants to recruit a seasonal worker to a country like France they will have to;
Advertise for 8 weeks in France and show proof that no French person can fill this role
Apply for a work permit (a 17 page document) this usually can take up to 2 months however due to the number of applications it will likely take longer.
The member of staff must then go in person to the French embassy to apply for a visa before they can enter the country. Note. At any point in this process the application for that individual can be rejected.
These rules will differ between each member state."
Sophie’s potential employers' approach shows they do not want to deal with the challenging documentation required to employ just one person and asked Sophie to take on the responsibility herself. When larger companies must repeat this application process for their 100+ seasonal workers and apply for any required work permits this will become unmanageable for them. Then after completing all the required documentation there is no guarantee that a visa will be issued. So after all this uncertainty it is not surprising employers are beginning to look elsewhere.
The outbound travel industry is one of many that has been severely impacted because of the pandemic, this has seen many companies struggling to make ends meet and inevitably some operators have had to shut up shop. The challenges they now face from the pandemic combined with the end of free movement of labour will no doubt lead to further contraction in the travel industry and an inevitable increase in prices for holiday makers.
The days of seeing smiling happy British seasonal workers in your holiday resorts around Europe may be becoming a thing of the past and the 25,000 people employed by this sector are faced with unemployment in an already unprecedented challenging time for those in the hospitality sector.
If you are a British seasonal worker and you have found your opportunities for working are proving challenging, please write to the firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story and experiences.