Aug 21, 2012

Do you know whos working for you?

Make sure theres no surprise within your staff

With talk of a double dip recession it is encouraging to hear that some clients are not only replacing staff that are leaving but are actually expanding.  As an employer you have a legal responsibility to ensure that everyone you take on is legally entitled to work in the UK and there are hefty penalties for employers found to be in breach.  This civil penalty can be up to £10,000, per illegal worker.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) issued, in June 2012, revised guidance to employers on preventing illegal working in the workplace.  So whether you are taking on additional staff or replacing existing staff we just want to remind employers of their responsibility.

There is a three step process which must be completed before employment commences, in brief it is: 

  1. Request and accept original documents.  The UKBA has compiled List A and List B which clearly states which document/s are acceptable. 
  2. You are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that the documentation is genuine, belongs to the person who has given it to you and allows them to do the type of work being offered.
  3. Take a copy which should be kept for the duration of the person’s employment and for at least two years after they have left.

As part of the updated guidance the UKBA have produced an Employers Right to Work Checklist which is a useful aid.

However, it is not just as straightforward as taking copies of documents and keeping them on file.  To protect yourself from potential claims of discrimination you should ensure that these document checks are carried out on all people.  It should form part of the recruitment process to ensure that no presumptions are made.  This process should apply to everyone joining the organisation part-timers, fixed-term contracts etc.  If in doubt, check.

The UKBA have the right to turn up at an employer’s premises and inspect documentation.  It is not unknown for employers to work with the UKBA when they realise that there is a problem.  This appears to be what Tesco did last week.  The UKBA raided their dotcom warehouse in Croydon.  Current reports state that Tesco appear to have had a problem with the number of hours worked by students on working visas.  This only goes to demonstrate not only how complex this issue can become but also highlights concerns that if one of the UK’s largest employers can still get it wrong what about the rest of us?

Our advice is to check, take copies and if at all unsure seek guidance, but above all dont just do nothing. Ignorance will be no defence. 

If you’ve taken on employees and not checked their employment status then ensure this is done as a priority.  For small employers who do not have a dedicated HR resource then it is important to ensure that anyone who is responsible for recruiting within the Company is aware of their responsibility.

With a recent Home Office report on the UK BA stating that there is a backlog of 275,000 illegal migrants in the UK, which the report’s Chairman said was equivalent to the size of Newcastle upon Tyne, it would be all too easy for employers to think this is an issue they can ignore.  Don’t be fooled.  The Daily Telegraph report that Tesco could be facing a fine of £200,000.  The UK BA is very much in the spot light and looking for soft targets please don’t be one of them. 




Deirdre Allen - HR Consultant

To find out more contact us on 020 8506 0582