17 August 2015

Are You Employing Illegal Workers?

The Home Office recently launched Operation Magnify, a UK-wide enforcement initiative taking place in the autumn, which will target businesses that are employing and exploiting illegal migrant workers.

It is currently raising awareness of illegal working and reminding employers that they have a legal responsibility to ensure that all those they employ have the right to work in the UK. Having identified construction as a key sector, the Home Office is considering how best to ensure businesses have effective measures in place to prevent illegal working.

While most companies will already have procedures in place, it is important that all employers are aware of their legal obligations. An employer found to be employing someone illegally and who has not carried out correct right to work checks could face a fine of up to £20,000. Knowingly employing an illegal worker is a criminal offence punishable by a 2-year prison term.

The basic requirement for employers is to check a person’s documentation before they are employed to ensure they are legally allowed to do the work in question. Checks can be carried out at interview stage provided all applicants are treated the same. When carrying out a check, there is a three step process that should be followed:

1.  Obtain the person’s original documents
2. Check that they are valid in the presence of the holder
3. Make and retain a clear copy and record the date of the check.

Following these three basic steps can help an employer to avoid legal action. If a company is found to be employing an illegal worker during a Home Office inspection, the employer can avoid a civil penalty if they can prove the correct right to work checks have been followed.

The Home Office offers a range of guidance as well as an online checking tool designed to help employers meet their obligations:

An Employer’s Guide to Right to Work Checks

Right to Work Checklist

Online Tool to Check if Someone Can Work in the UK