Employing immigrants

31 August 2006
Employing immigrants

The problem
The Government is cracking down on illegal immigration, and the hotel and catering industries will be among the hardest hit.

With the Home Office increasing the frequency of immigration raids and holding managers personally liable for any non-compliance, the industry must take measures to ensure that they are not in breach of immigration laws.

The law
It is illegal to knowingly employ any individual who does not have the right to work in the UK. The law makes senior management - owners, managers, HR managers - personally liable for any illegal immigrant found in their employ.

Senior management caught breaking immigration laws can face an unlimited fine and/or a custodial sentence as long as two years. Businesses caught employing illegal workers also face fines of as much as £5,000 per illegal worker.

Those caught working illegally can be arrested and deported.

The Home Office is making it explicitly clear that it intends to turn up the political heat with regard to illegal immigration. This "get tough" attitude was emphasised recently when the home secretary announced that the Government will be encouraging people to report to the police businesses which they believe are employing illegal immigrants.

The public will be encouraged to telephone the anonymous Crimestoppers line to report any suspicion of illegal employment.

John Reid promised that this policy would act as a significant deterrent to "rogue employers" who regularly employ illegal migrants. To avoid any nasty surprises, hotel and catering business operators need to be sure who is on their payroll now, not after the Home Office comes knocking.

Expert advice The best way to avoid liability is to conduct your own pre-emptive immigration audit. Compare your payroll records with all of your P45s or (non-temporary) national insurance forms and make sure that one exists for each of your employees.

All of the forms should be filled out completely and correctly, and it is advisable to consult with all your employees individually to check the paperwork and correct any mistakes.

Other documents to check include passports, birth certificates or other valid immigration documents. Be sure to demand original documents, and develop an immigration-related employee file which can easily be submitted to the Home Office if necessary.

Checking these documents is one step towards establishing a statutory defence in the event of an immigration raid. Hoteliers and restaurateurs should remember that this audit must include all staff members, British and foreign alike. By law, employers cannot discriminate by ethnicity and nationality when it comes to performing immigration checks.

Performing your own audit will ensure that there are no surprises if the Home Office decides to audit your business.

Check list

  • Remain informed Immigration law in the UK is in constant flux. Your organisation must be aware of all new rules and regulations in order to avoid non-compliance.
  • Screen potential candidates Make sure that immigration status checks are incorporated into recruitment procedures. Ensure that candidates are legally entitled to work in the UK, and that all documents are valid and up to date.
  • Immigration audit Conduct an immigration audit on all current employees to ensure all are valid to work in the UK. Remember that, under new Home Office rules, employers and HR managers can be held personally responsible for any breach of UK immigration law.
  • Consult a professional Contact a solicitor who specialises in UK immigration law for assistance regarding immigration matters.

Beware! If caught, an employer of illegal immigrants can face a two-year custodial sentence and fines of £5,000 per illegal worker. An illegal immigrant caught working in the UK faces arrest and deportation.

ContactAnne Morris
Davidson Morris Solicitors, specialists in UK immigration law
020 7061 6210

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