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Illegal Immigrants - A Warning for Employers

Illegal Immigrants - A Warning for Employers



Television news shows the daily scenes of migrants attempting ingenious/desperate methods to reach our shores the Government continues to look at measures to try and combat illegal immigration and the latest Government proposal is that landlords should carry out checks on tenants’ immigration status before allowing them to enter into a lease arrangement or face prosecution.

Targeting employers

It has been announced that immigration officers, in conjunction with HMRC, the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Care Quality Commission and the HSE are preparing for a series of raids this autumn.  It has been reported that they will mainly target employers in the construction sector, care homes and cleaning businesses.   The rationale behind this coordinated approach is that employers who ‘knowingly’ employ illegal workers are also likely to be the type of employer that ignores Health & Safety or does not pay the National Minimum Wage or deduct the correct tax etc.   

If employers are under the scrutiny of the UK Border Agency it won’t be a sufficient defence  to say they “did not know”. However,  if they can demonstrate that checks have been carried out before employment commences, this could well be a valid defence.  It is well established that employers must check certain original documents, keep a note of the date on which the checks were made (before employment commenced), and keep copies of those documents on file until two years after the employment has ended.  Click hereto see the Right to Work document Checklist.

Protect you and your business

Consequently, all Employers, irrespective of their sector/industry, should ensure that they have carried out the necessary checks of their employees’ right to work in the UK.  You should ensure that:

  • your paperwork is up to date, in respect of your employees’ right to work in the UK;
  • you are paying the National Minimum Wage (Click herefor current rates); and
  • you have the necessary Health and Safety Policy, Risk Assessments, and Safe Systems of Work in place.

Failure to do so, could result in a civil penalty notice/criminal prosecution leading to potentially a substantial fine if you are found guilty. 

Current legislation provides that employers who "knowingly employ" illegal workers could be fined up to £20,000 per illegal worker employed.  The individuals at fault could also face criminal sanctions, including imprisonment for up to two years.

Our HR / Employment Law clients have access to information on the legal issues regarding the right to work in the UK within their Employment Guidance Manual, Section A.  Please contact us if you would like more information on this. 

The Government will, we are sure, want to publicise the raids to demonstrate that it is taking the immigration issue seriously and hope the publicity acts as a deterrent to other employers from: ‘knowingly’ employing illegal workers; breaching health & safety and failing to pay the national minimum wage.  They appear to like the ‘name and shame’ approach – so if you don’t want to be ‘named and shamed’ – you know what you need to do.  If you need advice and assistance, please contact us.

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