Holiday home owner calls for guidance over foreign workers

Seasonal workers Norfolk

Rules on foreign workers coming into Norfolk and staying in holiday accommodation are not clear, says the owner of one self-catering cottage. - Credit: PA News

A 72-year-old owner of a Norfolk seaside holiday cottage is urging booking firms to be more upfront after being asked to host nine workers from Spain.

John Fiddian and his wife Valda decided to forgo a booking of almost £4,000 for a fortnight because of their concerns over Covid.

Pinewood House, Hunstanton

Pinewood House, Hunstanton - Credit: Supplied

The couple, who have been running holiday homes for 22 years, received a last minute booking through their operator, Awaze UK, the parent company of Hoseasons, for the nine guests.

The booking was for the group to stay in the couple's property in the centre of Hunstanton in Northgate called Pinewood House.

Pinewood House, Hunstanton Norfolk

Inside Pinewood House, Hunstanton. - Credit: Supplied

Little information was forthcoming, they said, but when they made further enquiries, they were told the people were from Spain, currently in the amber list for coronavirus, travelling to Norfolk for work. 

Concerned over what precautions had been taken against coronavirus, Mr Fiddian decided to decline the £3,962 booking. 

A spokesman from Awaze, which runs Hoseasons, based in Lowestoft, said: “Following this being brought to our attention we have been in touch directly with Mr Fiddian to explain our policies and procedures for any bookings we take, either from the UK or overseas.

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"We are currently following all government guidelines to avoid any discrimination and comply completely with current legislation.” 

People travelling to the UK for work are exempt from some rules but travelling from amber countries like Spain need to take a Covid test beforehand, quarantine on arrival and take further tests on day two and eight. 

In Norfolk, farmers employing foreign fruit pickers have to monitor the workers' quarantine as well as supply Covid tests to comply - and people aren't allowed to be housed anywhere except on-site.

solar farm Norfolk

The rules on people coming into to work on things like solar farms from abroad and staying in local holiday accommodation aren't clear, says the owner of one self-catering cottage. - Credit: Archant

Mr Fiddian said: "We received a late booking for a group of people, there was no security deposit, no names or any information at all.

"When my wife chased it up, we found out the nine people were from Spain and we believe were going to work on a solar farm.

"We were given no assurances these people had been tested for Covid, nothing.

"We have staff who work for us who are vulnerable, so we didn't want to expose them to people coming from an amber country.

"Surely we have a duty of care, we have been so careful and we're all doing our bit. It's of no consequence to Awaze because they just take the booking but don't have to get close to the people. 

"The responsibility I have is to the area which I have earned a living from, my staff who have been cleaning for me for 20 years and also the holidaymaker who comes in afterwards.

"I wasn't worried about losing the money, because I just don't want anyone to get ill as a result."

Tim Place, Place UK

Tim Place, of Place UK - Credit: Archant

Tim Place, of fruit suppliers and growers Place UK, based in Tunstead, near North Walsham, who employs hundreds of seasonal workers from abroad each year, said: "The process is working well, we have people from Eastern Europe, mainly Bulgaria and Romania, but there are special guidelines.

"They have to have a negative test before coming to the UK and then we have to quarantine them on our site and supervise them getting tested on day two, five and eight. We get regularly checked by the police and the Home Office.

"The workers aren't allowed to stay outside the site for accommodation. It's costing me a fortune to do all this but we are just lucky to be able to operate."